Scotlands History

Miners' strikes

The first wave of miners’ strikes between 1972 and 1974 was held against mounting economic and unemployment problems.

In February 1972, twelve UK power stations were shut down and a three-day working week was introduced – ending after 20 days of power cuts. After the Arab–Israeli War of 1973, there was a 70 per cent hike in oil prices, and in November the UK prepared for petrol rationing. The miners continued their overtime ban into December, and in 1974 there was a strike ballot.

At the 1974 general election, 11 Scottish National Party members were elected to Westminster, demonstrating the national discontent. With the Labour Party back in power, Harold Wilson conceded the miners’ pay demands and ended the strike.

Ten years later came another miners’ strike, because the Coal Board wanted to close up to twenty ‘uneconomic’ pits. After the 35th week of the strike, in November 1986, the workers returned to the pits and the National Union of Miners called off the strike. Mining towns in Fife, Stirlingshire and Lanarkshire lost many of their pits and their main source of employment. In 1985, unemployment peaked at 15.6 percent.  Today only a few small, privately-owned surface mines remain in Scotland.

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