‘Next Steps in Levelling Up the Former Coalfields’ parliamentary report published

Thursday June 15th 2023


The former Lady Victoria Colliery at Newtongrange, Midlothian, is now the site of The National Mining Museum Scotland.

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

Midlothian’s former mining communities need targeted investment to overcome Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, according to a new report.

Owen Thompson MP said Thatcher’s “war on coalfield communities” was still causing havoc across the country.

He spoke out as a parliamentary report showed many former mining areas were lagging behind the rest of the country. He blasted Thatcher’s legacy as a parliamentary group on former coalfield communities launched their ‘Next Steps in Levelling Up the Former Coalfields’ report.

His views were echoed by Kelly Parry, leader of Midlothian Council, who said former coalfield communities were being left behind.

Thompson, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coalfield Communities, said: “This new report is a shocking indictment.

“It shows how these communities still continue to fall behind. It clearly demonstrates that Margaret Thatcher’s cold dead hands continue to strangle the life out of Scotland’s former coalfield communities.

“Levelling up is a great phrase but it doesn’t ring true in Midlothian and the other former coal mining areas of Scotland that have been left to wither.”

The report found former coalfields in Fife, the Lothians, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire are dogged by socio-economic problems and vverage life expectancy in the former coalfields is a full year less than the national average and two years less than in London,

In the former coalfield areas, wages are below average, job growth lags behind big cities and there are large numbers of people out of the labour market on incapacity benefits.

Starting last November, the inquiry received more than 70 submissions from across Scotland, England and Wales.

The Scottish Government, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector all contributed.

The report said: “The former coalfields are a distinctive part of Britain. Their long and proud history of mining developed unique local economies, cultures and landscapes.

“For many years, the coal industry shaped their way of life and its disappearance has raised concerns over the welfare of current and future residents.

“The miners’ strike of 1984/85 is fading in popular memory but the consequences of the upheaval caused by pit closures continue to be felt.

“Put simply, the former coalfields continue to lag behind on a range of social and economic indicators.

“Fundamental imbalances in labour markets, social mobility and health persist.

“While many other parts of the country have prospered, most coalfield communities are failing to keep up.”

At the forefront of the report’s recommendations is the need to boost local economies.

With a combined population of 5.7 million – more than the whole of Scotland – the former coalfields are too big to ignore, says the report.

They include places of acute disadvantage and though unemployment has fallen economic inactivity remains widespread.

The State of the Coalfields report, by academics at Sheffield Hallam University, found former coalfields have only 55 employee jobs per 100 residents of working age, compared to a national average of 73 and 84 in the main regional cities.

Thompson added: “Enough is enough. We need to seriously look at the systemic issues that afflict these former coalfield areas.

“We need a detailed programme of investment now not just hollow words about levelling up.

“The trauma of the miners strike and Thatcher’s war on coalfield communities may be starting to fade from memory for some.

“But for those living in these areas, her legacy casts a long and grim shadow.”

Kelly Parry, Midlothian Council leader, said: “This report is an important milestone on the road to repairing the damage done to our mining communities by Margaret Thatcher.

“We now need funding to shore up these areas and stop them falling even further behind.

“There needs to be a more even and balanced distribution of the UK’s prosperity.

“We have taken steps to address this legacy and alleviate the worst of the deprivation.

“But the pit closures left a lasting legacy of social and economic damage.

“We have many thriving new businesses in Midlothian but there’s a lot more to be done to boost recovery and tackle poverty and inequality – especially in former mining areas.”

The report called for more robust policies to grow the local economies of the former coalfields.

The areas need investment in transport, particularly rail, more high-quality apprenticeships, Treasury funding for small business units, geothermal mine water to be investigated as a source of green energy and a higher share of miners’ pension fund surpluses to go to retirees.

She added: “If ‘levelling up’ is to be more than a slogan, it must reach our former mining communities.

“Midlothian must benefit from any new funds and initiatives that could help boost recovery. I will be arguing the case for precisely that.”

Yiu can read the report Next Steps in Levelling Up the Former Coalfields’ HERE.

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