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 Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 10:19 GMT
Striking miners faced 'volunteer force'
Coal
The government wanted to guarantee coal supplies
A "volunteer force" was planned in Scotland to beat miners' pickets during the 1972 coal strike, it has emerged.

Official papers released under the 30-year rule show civil servants, police, local authorities and other organisations worked on a secret project to muster hundreds of drivers to supply the country's power stations.

A Royal Air Force base was earmarked as a makeshift base for the unit, whose numbers were put at between 400 and 600 trucks and drivers.

Fire brigades were approached to provide off-duty personnel and volunteer groups to cater for the coal convoys.

Miner
Miners went on strike for seven weeks in 1972

The volunteers' role was to drive in convoys to beat pickets blocking the supply of coal to Scottish power plants.

But the advanced contingency plans were never put into the place in the early part of 1972, because the dispute was brought to a close, although documents show civil servants used the exercise to plan for future contingencies.

The miners' strike two years later would lead to the fall of Edward Heath's Conservative government.

Britain was being paralysed by industrial action, which had spilled out across industry and reached new levels of disruption with the miners.

When on 9 January, 1972, thousands of miners began their national strike, supplies to power stations soon became a target.

Edward Heath's government had been working on plans to use the military to beat a strike since the summer of the previous year.

But the plans changed in the event of the miners' action, with ministers opting to raise a volunteer band over the Army.

See also:

12 Nov 02 | England
24 Oct 02 | True Spies
01 Aug 02 | UK
16 Jul 02 | Business
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