Scottish government urged to provide financial compensation to striking miners through underuse of justice

On this day in 1984, a former miner named Jim Tierney was one of 290 arrested by police in Stepps, while going about his lawful business, and arrested and detained.

It wasn’t the only time Jim was lifted during the miners’ strike, with an incident later that year leading to him being jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, fired from his work and blacklisted.

Jim’s story is far from unique. There are other similar stories of injustice, layoffs and blacklisting. Rights lost, families torn apart, communities destroyed.

This lived experience of working class history illustrates why, when MSPs debate the Miners’ Strike Pardons Bill again today, I will be calling on the Scottish Government to establish a compensation scheme to help to heal the wounds that have remained open for nearly four decades.

Jim lives in the constituency of Justice Secretary Keith Brown, who has so far defied appeals from former miners for compensation.

Mr Brown’s department underspent its £41million budget last year.

No one has yet quantified what compensation for the miners and their families would cost. But, given that of the 1,400 who were arrested, 500 were convicted and 206 were fired, I reckon that could be comfortably accommodated in that kind of figure.

By resisting legitimate demands for compensation so far, the SNP/Green government has peddled the myth that it is up to the UK government to act. They seriously want us to trust Boris Johnson.

There was a distinctive Scottish dimension to what happened. The minors were arrested by Scottish police officers, prosecuted by Scottish tax prosecutors and convicted by Scottish sheriffs in Scottish courts. It’s not about labor law, it’s about criminal law and our legal system.

Mr Brown called his bill purely “tokenistic”. Well, symbols are fine as far as they go. What these families need and deserve is justice and closure.

So my question to the Secretary of Justice is this: Will you be able to look your constituent – and others like him – in the eye and say, hand on heart, that you have done absolutely everything you could?

Of course, we cannot go back. Those lost years cannot be regained.

We cannot rewrite history, but we have the ability to right historical wrongs.

This is a test for democracy and for our parliament. It is one that, for the sake of these miners and their surviving families, we must embrace.

Leonard is an MSP from Central Scotland for Labor

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