LONGANNET was the largest coal-fired power station in Europe, its 600-ft chimney towering over the Forth Estuary.

As a young National Coal Board (NCB) auditor I will never forget its vast grounds, fed by an ingenious underground conveyor belt system linking the newly opened Castlebridge to the remaining Fife pits, stretching to the horizon and hosting two million tons of coal, enough to keep it going for two years.

Miners’ strikes of the early 1970s, about wages and conditions, power cuts et al had public sympathy. The strike of 1984 was about pit closures.

Determined to burn down the power of the unions, the Tory Government had prepared. With no green agenda (as there is in the present day) decisions had been made – no deep mines in Scotland beyond the year 2000. Most closed by 1990 and the newer Longannet complex shut in 2002.

The National: Longannet Power Station (54898115)

In 1983, Margaret Thatcher personally appointed one Ian Kinloch MacGregor to head the NCB, paying Lazars, his then employer, £1.8 million to secure his services. Born in Kinlochleven in 1912 he had a Calvinist upbringing – he was knighted in 1986 –and had no time for trade unions or their rights.

With a history both in America and closer to home with the “re-organisation” of British Steel, ironically a Labour prime minister, Jim Callaghan, had brought him across from the US to sort out the mess at British Leyland in the 1970s.

The Torness nuclear power station was approved in 1980 and became operational in 1988 at a controversial cost then of £2 billion, supplementing Hunterson B – approved by a Labour Government in 1968 – to together provide Scotland with half of its energy needs. The main oil burning station in Scotland at Inverkip, commissioned when oil was cheap in 1970, never ran at full capacity after the oil crisis in 1973 except, tellingly, when the miners’ strike was in full flow during 1984-85.

The public were conditioned to see why closure of the pits would make sense. No power cuts from Industrial action. They were dangerous, unhealthy, losing £50m annually in Scotland. Safer, productive opencast mines would assume the slack making around £50m profit.

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The South of Scotland Electricity Board (SSEB) was still effectively in public ownership. The coal-fired power stations – Longannet, Cockenzie, Methil and the ageing Kincardine – were the big market for Scottish coal and we had an export market too.

“The miners united will never be defeated” was chanted bravely on the picket lines. Comparatively well paid, particularly in England where the bonuses were far greater, the achievements of the 1970s industrial action were arguably the undoing of any united National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) movement.

The 1984-85 strike was led by Yorkshire’s Arthur Scargill. He was outed as strategically inept, his calls for further strikes in 1986 were largely ignored.

In 1985, with unemployment high and violent scenes on picket lines, the “better” life of owning their council houses under the Conservative right to buy scheme, (arguably responsible for the housing crisis we face now), left them with mortgages to pay and the miners drifted back to work.

The National: Margaret Thatcher

Thousands of police were deployed from all over the country to “combat” Scargill’s “flying pickets”, who aggressively targeted those returning to work. The government, channelling substantial taxpayers’ money through NCB subsidy schemes, indirectly paid for bus companies to fortify their vehicles and find drivers willing to drive through the picket lines.

There were 11,291 people arrested, 8392 charged, 200 imprisoned and 9000 dismissed even if not charged.

The last deep mine in the UK, Kellingley in North Yorkshire, was closed in 2015. Fourteen coal-fired power stations, all in England, still existed in 2015, using mostly imported coal.

Torness, owned since 2009 by EDF, the French state company, is scheduled to close in 2030. The decommissioning costs will run to billions. But it was previously under state owned Scottish Nuclear which was merged into British Energy and privatised in 1996.

The Labour Government of 1997 did not look to renationalise it. Interestingly, respected Scottish NUM leader Mick McGahey, appalled at what had happened in Scotland, advocated for a Scottish Parliament within a federal UK.

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With the pit closure, we lost the finest of engineers, with families torn apart, communities and community cohesion were eliminated and the work camaraderie was replaced by bitterness and mental health problems. Breakdowns were inevitable and predicable, with some never recovering from broken hearts.

Forty years later, can those affected apologise and forgive each other to heal social wounds?

Those still alive from the government of that era could offer an apology. Will their successors learn from the recent public inquiry? Well, no, but the real tragedy would be not to use intelligent hindsight to learn how short-sighted Westminster policies come to get us in different guises resulting in negative economic and social consequences which last for decades and sometimes centuries.

A Wilson Mackie is a member of Business for Scotland, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and runs a successful business with his wife and business partner