South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has slammed Boris Johnson for refusing to make changes to a policy which strips out 50 percent of any surplus from the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.
The Prime Minister has rejected widespread calls, including the UK Parliament Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee to scrap the policy which has removed £4.4bn from the Scheme since the privatisation of British Coal in 1994.
Speaking during a debate in the Scottish Parliament today (Thursday 9 September) , Colin Smyth said: “I’m immensely proud to represent a region truly steeped in Scotland’s mining history.
“Indeed, Midlothian was one of the most important coal mining areas in Scotland. It contained 26 collieries, employing at one time 11,000 miners across the county. And of course today it houses the National Mining Museum at Lady Victoria Colliery.
“Neighbouring East Lothian is home to the earliest documented coal mines in Scotland between Tranent and the town of Prestonpans- where the Prestonpans Labour Club ensured that local children still received a hot meal everyday during the miners strike.
“And in a region where Scotland’s coalfields run almost continuously from the west to the east coast, some of the most valuable coal seems were of course in Lanarkshire paving the way to making it the seat of the iron-smelting industry.
“On the west coast in Ayrshire at one time 14,000 coal miners mined 4 million tonnes of coal annually- and a certain Keir Hardie founded the Ayrshire Miners Union that led to the National Union of Scottish Mineworkers.
“In Dumfriesshire, an area many may not associate with coal mines, deep mining was integral to the economy as far south as Canonbie and Rowanburn and more recently in Upper Nithsdale- – from the Fauldhead mine in Kirkconnel- the largest local pit until it closed in 1968 to the opencasts, that continued until just a few years ago.
“Many of my own relatives worked in those Upper Nithsdale pits until the demise of the industry in the 1980s.
“Some retired, some had to move out of the area to the north east to find work in the oil industry.
“And Presiding Officer if there is one lesson we must take from the demise of the pits– and the devastation that was inflicted on our mining communities – many of which have still not recovered today- it’s that we must have a just transition for our oil and gas sector that creates new jobs, for those that will be lost.
“Never, ever again can we have Government inflict such economic vandalism on communities- and then walk away leaving industrial scale levels of unemployment.”
Colin continued: “But not content with the pain inflicted in the 80s on coalfield communities by Thatcher, and fresh from his crass comments joking about those pit closures, her protégé Boris Johnston has added insult to injury by failing to right the injustice of the Mineworkers Pension Scheme.
“Since the Tories privatised British Coal in 1994, the Treasury has stripped out 50 percent of any surplus from the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.
“That’s £4.4 billion that should have gone to miners and their families.
“It is those miners who toiled away down the pit, creating the wealth and prosperity. And this is the thanks they get?
“Some of those pensioners have been left scrimping and saving on a pensions which in more than half of cases is less than £65 per week.
“Yet if there were communities that would benefit from the spending power of local people having a few pounds more in their pensions- it is our coalfield communities, in desperate need of regeneration.”