Professor Phillips believes the pardon should also include miners who did not formally strike but took part in “spontaneous demonstrations”.
The Holyrood bill to retroactively pardon miners convicted of offences during the 1984-1985 miners’ strike should extend past strikers to also cover those involved in “spontaneous demonstrations” during the long-running Thatcher-era industrial disputes, says Professor Jim Phillips, an expert in Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow.
In its current form, the pardon only applies to miners participating in or travelling to and from a picket line or planned demonstration. According to Professor Phillips, the bill risks creating a legal division between miners arrested on the picket lines and those “who at the time got into fights with strikebreakers in the street”, creating a “hierarchy of justice” between those deemed deserving and undeserving of reinstatement.
“The bill makes provision for strikers who have convictions that arose from events on the picket lines, on strike-related demonstrations and other related gatherings, but it doesn’t for miners who were convicted after incidents in communities. I think that is an important deficiency,” argues Phillips, describing the situation in the 1980s as “highly abnormal”.
The bill, intended to recognize the disproportionately harsh consequences suffered by miners participating in Thatcher-era strikes, acts as a step towards reconciliation between those upholding the law and miners who were fighting to protect their jobs, livelihoods and communities.