FOR hundreds of Scottish miners, today marks the moment they left their picket lines when Britain's most bitter industrial dispute officially came to an end.


The miner's strike, which took place between March 5 1984 and March 3 1985, saw hundreds of thousands of workers from British pits stand united in an attempt to stop closures.

They were fighting against their employer, the National Coal Board and Margaret Thatcher's Tory Government in a desperate attempt to save their industry.

More than half of Scotland's 15,000 miners remained on strike until the end, with thousands marching back to work behind union banners on March 5 two days after delegates had voted to call off the strike.

At the Cardowan colliery in Stepps, which had officially closed in September 1983, hundreds of workers stood united day in and day out for a year to fight for their industry.

Despite the facility's closure, men were carrying out recovery work on site while others passed through the area to get to other pits including Longannet.

Nicky Wilson, Scotland's regional coordination for the National union of mineworkers(NUM), was just one of those working there when the strike began.

Now 64, he looks back at the life-changing event with sadness, anger and quiet reflection.

Mr Wilson said: "I remember the day the strike finished.

"I returned to Cardowan colliery where I was still on the books and I was told there was no job for me.

"For a week I had nowhere to go but I then got sent up to Longannet complex.

"There was sadness, but I can speak personally, I never regretted it.

"We made a stand and tried to fight for it and we lost, but I don't think it was wrong."

Mr Wilson said there was a mixture of disappointment, sadness and, for some families, relief when the dispute finally came to a close.

They had struggled for 363 days with no pay, surviving on weekly food parcel donations, vouchers and clothes which kind-hearted residents had donated from Glasgow and the surrounding area.

"Before it happened we had six collieries close in Scotland, Wales had seven and north east England had five." Mr Wilson explained.

"Nobody needed to tell us what was coming, we had already lived it.

"That's why the men supported it so strongly, they knew we were fighting for our very industry and communities.

"That's why it sustained itself for a year.

"At the end there was bitter disappointment that we lost.

"To a certain extent you could see a difference in the likes of married men with families and houses.

"They were a bit relieved because their families had suffered so much in that year.

"Some of the younger lads, they didn't have the responsibility of mortgages or anything and they would have stayed out 'till the cows came home.

"But we went back with dignity - we were defeated but we've been proven right.

"For an industry which employed 250,000 men in '84 we're now down to one which employs 3,000-odd."

Along with help from the well-bolstered NUM led by Arthur Scargill, local politicians backed the striking miners.

These included Dennis Canavan, the Falkirk West Labour MP, Martin O'Neill, Labour MP For Clackmannan and Harry Ewing, Labour MP for the Falkirk East constituency.

Mr Canavan raised concerns in Parliament about police behaviour, including after one particular incident in May 1984 when bus loads of miners were arrested on the outskirts of Glasgow on their way to Hunterston power station.

He also spoke at union and Labour party meetings, helping to advise the miners and offer support during their fight.

Mr Canavan worked closely with the people of Fallin, Stirlingshire's last pit village and helped to give political support to miners on strike all over Scotland.

He said the resilience and camaraderie that was "literally hewn out of the coal face" during the time still lingers to this day in many mining areas of Scotland.

He said: "Margaret Thatcher certainly destroyed deep coal mining industry but she didn't destroy the spirit of the mining communities.

"There was a tremendous resilience there amongst the miners themselves, their wives and their families.

"To this day, 30 years later, I still sense that great feeling of community in many of these pit villages.

"People were working underground in very cramped and dangerous conditions and it encouraged a great spirit of team work and people thinking of their neighbours rather than themselves.

"That spirit is still there and I don't think anything will every destroy that."

The reality of working in a coal mine for decades has taken its toll on thousands of miners still living today.

Around 380,000 claims have been submitted already for mining-related diseases.

These include chest and breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and white finger, caused by using vibrating machinery for long periods of time.

MSPs and MPs such as Neil Findlay still continue to fight for a review of treatment of the miners during the strike as more than 1400 were arrested from Scotland alone.

Charities such as the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, have been set up to support retired and current miners as well as former mining communities and the NUM continues to have a strong presence throughout the country.

Sidebar - events

Thousands of miners are set to gather at events across the country this month, marking the day the strike ended.

Many will travel to Wakefield for, With Banners Held High - a day long festival on Saturday March 7.

Members of the NUM and local Trade Union Congresses (TUCs) from across Britain will be in attendance, including some of Scotland's retired miners.

The day will feature music, drama and talks from union members about their experiences of the strike.

The film, Still the Enemy Within, which tells the tale of the strike from the miner's point of view, will be screened at various sites across Scotland including the Fauldhouse Miner's Club in Bathgate. Organisers will screen the film on Saturday March 7, while Kilmarnock and loudon TUC is set to show the film next month, on April 27.

Leven councillor Tom Adams, a former mine worker and NUM official, is urging retired mineworkers to join him in a mock picket line to mark the anniversary, which he will hold on March 15 at the Frances Colliery in Dysart.

Labour councillor Dennis Canavan is opening The Battle for Polmaise exhibition in Stirling on March 6.

The exhibition, taking place at the Smith Gallery, will be displayed until July and will highlight the important contribution the Polmaise colliery played in the strike.