Union leader calls for inquiry into policing during hi...

Union leader calls for inquiry into policing during historic newspaper strike

04 October 2016

A Scottish trade union leader has called for an inquiry into the use of undercover police during one of the biggest industrial disputes of the 1980s.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty says there are big questions to answer around the use and conduct of undercover police officers during the News International dispute at Kinning Park in Glasgow between 1986 and 1987.

And he says a review of undercover policing announced by the Scottish Government does not go far enough.

Pat Rafferty said: “For years, trade unionists have felt that there was something wrong with the policing at Kinning Park.  Secret police files uncovered earlier this year show that Special Branch officers were spying on trade unionists involved in the dispute, and recording them as they went about lawful, peaceful protest.

“In England and Wales, the Pitchford Inquiry will look at all aspects of undercover policing going back to 1968. Unite has been given special status as a core participant in that inquiry, and we will be able to raise questions about the News International dispute.

“The Scottish Government has announced that there will be review of undercover policing in Scotland. But it is only a review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. It won’t take evidence in public, it won’t be able to compel evidence, and its remit only goes back to 2000.

“We have to ask – why is the Scottish Government doing less on this issue than the Tory Government at Westminster? If the Pitchford Inquiry’s remit cannot be extended to Scotland, then Scotland needs its own inquiry.”

Pat Rafferty made the remarks last night (Monday 3 October) at the opening of a special exhibition at Unite’s Glasgow headquarters, marking 30 years since the start of the News International dispute. 

In January 1986, Rupert Murdoch shifted production of his papers overnight to a new, non-union printworks, at Wapping in London, sacking the existing production and administration workforce of 5,500 employees. He also opened a new printing plant at Kinning Park in Glasgow.

The High Court ordered the sequestration of the funds of SOGAT, the largest union involved, when distribution workers in London refused to handle News International papers. Other unions were ordered by the courts to refrain from solidarity action and fined for contempt.

More than 1,400 strikers and supporters were arrested, six were jailed and hundreds injured during demonstrations and picketing.

Complaints of police brutality and unwarranted arrests at Wapping led to an independent inquiry by Northamptonshire Police that described police actions as violent and undisciplined.

In January this year, the Special Branch Files Project uncovered evidence that strikers in Glasgow and London had been spied on by undercover police officers.


Notes to editors

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Unite Scotland press officer David Eyre on 07960 451631 /

Unite is the successor union of all the trade unions involved in the News International dispute, except the National Union of Journalists.

The News International Dispute Exhibition is open between 3-26 October at Unite’s Scottish headquarters, John Smith House, 145 West Regent Street, G2 4RZ. For more details see:

For more information on The Special Branch Files Project and Kinning Park, see: and

The Undercover Policing Inquiry chaired by Sir Christopher Pitchford will report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968. For more information see:

On 22 September, the Scottish Government directed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland to carry out an independent review of undercover policing activities in Scotland. For more information see:

Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with 150,000 members across the economy. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.