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West Fife joins calls for miners' strike police inquiry

Published: 28 Dec 2012 09:0018 comments

CALLS for a full independent inquiry into the policing of the 1984-85 miners' strike have been backed in West Fife, former heartland of the Scottish coal industry.

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Bob Young, who was leader of the miners in West Fife, said it was time that the public finally found out the truth.

Mr Young, now a long-serving Dunfermline councillor, was one of 500 Scottish miners convicted of offences during the bitter year-long dispute.

He was the only sacked miner in Britain to win his job back and hopes that the stain against the name of his former colleagues can finally be removed.

Labour politicians at Holyrood and Westminster are calling for a "full, independent and comprehensive review" into each case.

The plea came from Neil Findlay MSP and David Hamilton MP, a former miner who spent two months in jail for his part in the strike.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has been urged to launch an independent review.

The call comes as the Independent Police Complaints Commission is carrying out an investigation into allegations officers tampered with witness statements at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire, where many West Fife miners were arrested.

Mr Young said, "The Hillsborough case has shown how the police lied and covered up and that was the same force who were at Orgreave when they came charging at us on horses.

"I remember we were at a picket in the Frances Colliery one day and we watched as the police came down and picked out the NUM officials and the guys who ran the strike centres.

"You could see them walking down and targeting them. Myself, I was arrested more than once and we need a full inquiry into what went on at that time.

"The public wouldn't believe you if you told them some of the things that did go on back then.

"Myself, Davie Hamilton and other guys knew our phones were being tapped and we proved it one day when we said on the phone we would be going to picket one pit where they sent hundreds of police but we went to Comrie instead where there were none.

"When we would go to picket lines down in England there would be hundreds, thousands of police."

Mr Young found out he had been sacked two days before the miners returned to work in 1985.

"The boys were going back on the Monday and somebody came to my door on the Saturday and handed a letter to my daughter, Lorna, who was just 12. I was out in the garden and she brought me the letter.

"They said it was because of what happened in Cartmore in Lochgelly. There were 133 arrests that day but only one sacking - that was me.

"I never thought I'd get another job. I thought that was me finished because I'd been in the press and on television but fortunately I had some good friends who gave me advice and I managed to take the National Coal Board to task and beat them.

"I got my job back at Comrie Colliery 15 months later. I was still the chairman of the union because the boys had re-elected me when I was not in the pit. I got my job back in the June and then there was a meeting in the September.

"They told us they were closing the pit in the January which they duly did. It closed on 26th January 1987.

"I'm still the only miner who was re-instated in the whole of the coal board. The reason was because I taped all my interviews without telling them.

"Then at the tribunal when they got up and said I had been cursing, swearing and using threatening language I was able to produce the tapes and prove I wasn't.

"My argument is that's what they did to me and that must have been replicated throughout the industry.

"I remember I went up in court before a judge they had brought out of retirement and he said, 'You're not allowed within 15 miles of the Cartmore site'.

"I looked at him and said, 'That means I'll not be able to go home then because I live in Dunfermline and that's within 15 miles of the site'. He didn't have a clue.

"He said, 'We'll make it 10 miles then' and I said, 'No good, that's still taking in my house'.

"He ended up saying, 'Well you're not allowed near the Cartmore site'. But that just showed they were so out of touch from what was happening locally."

Fife Council leader Alex Rowley said, "There were a lot of miners treated in a way that was rather suspect and I certainly personally support the campaign.

"I think there would be a strong feeling in the council as well that where an injustice has been done then that has to be dealt with, no matter how many years on we are.

"With a lot of the sacked miners there is mounting evidence to show that they weren't treated correctly and some of the convictions are questionable.

"If there's an injustice which can be corrected it should be corrected."

Dunfermline MP Thomas Docherty has spoken to his colleague, David Hamilton, on the issue and has asked former miners to contact him if they believe they were a victim of a miscarriage of justice during the strike.

"I'm conscious that this was almost 30 years ago and some of the miners may not be alive but I'd urge miners or their families to get in touch with my office if they feel they were stitched-up by the police during the strike," he told the Press.

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