Twenty-five years ago this month, Bobby Clelland was about to start his back shift at Fife's Comrie pit when he glanced at a lift heading for the surface. Inside the cage was the unmistakeable figure of Arthur Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers.

"This was the day the strike had been called down in Yorkshire, but at that moment he was unaware of this," says the 55-year-old.

"Our NUM guys had taken him down to show him around the pit.

"He heard the news and called a pit-head meeting but, because we were not on strike, we still went down to work."

Nobody at Comrie that day -with the possible exception of Scargill - had any inkling of what lay in store for Britain, and its miners, over the next 12 months.

The miners' strike was a bruising, divisive and politically-charged affair and became a key chapter in Britain's trade union history.

Like thousands of other miners, Clelland, a father of four young boys at the time, endured financial hardship and watched as mine after mine closed down, bringing turmoil to areas such as his own, West Fife.

However, a quarter of a century on, he says, the area has proved resilient and done reasonably well, rising above the damage caused by the loss of so many collieries.

"In certain areas - the Valleyfield, the Oakley, the Blair-hall - there's quite a high level of deprivation through unemployment and other things.

But on the whole it's doing fine," he says.

The demise of mining in the 1970s and 1980s created mass unemployment, according to a January 2008 Fife Economic Forum report into the area. With the exception of quarrying and tourism, "very little industry exists today".

Manufacturing employment is scarce, with many villagers engaged in routine or semi- routine occupations.

The report added that 35.5% of the villages' 17,000 population was economically inactive, mirroring the Fife and Scottish averages.

Clelland speaks enthusiastically about a learning education centre launched by West Fife Enterprises, which gives people qualifications and feeds them into new jobs.

"It's had a high level of success with youngsters," he says.

"A lot of them got apprenticeships and are now in full-time jobs."

Clelland's own pit, Comrie, closed down in December 1986, 21 months after the strike ended. He was switched to Castlebridge colliery, near Alloa, and then to Longannet mine, where he lasted until 2002.

It was there that he was injured in a roof fall, suffering a damaged shoulder that required two operations.

He did volunteer work with Citizens Advice, and was asked to stand for Fife Council. Though reluctant at first, he stood, and for the last two years has helped represent West Fife and coastal villages. He doubles as secretary of the West Fife Area Retired Miners Branch.

"You really need to commit to being a full-time councillor," he says. "I work longer hours now than I ever did down the pit. But there are times I feel impotent if I can't get a result, and that can be a bit downheartening."

His four sons are all in work as well, though one is in the process of emigrating to Australia.

As Clelland recalls, Comrie initially voted against strike action in 1984. But once it was called out, it did so solidly.

"We just felt that, once you were called out, you then backed up your fellow miners."

Clelland was secretary of the Oakley strike committee, and witnessed the setting-up of kitchens that served soup, pasta and other meals.

And then there was the day assistance arrived from a quite unexpected quarter.

"A policeman came to the strike centre. He didn't want to come in so I went out and met him. He said, I don't like the situation, I don't like how we're being used to defeat you', and he gave us a big parcel of food. I really thanked him for that." He added: "We didn't expect the strike to last as long as it did.

"It went on through the summer and, when it came to the boys' birthdays, we just couldn't afford them.

"We just had to tighten the belt. What we were getting from the Social was ridiculous.

"But my wife, Carol, had lived through the strikes of 1972 and 1974 with her parents, and she came from a mining family, so she knew the situation."

Upbeat message the Fife area is projecting today

FIFE'S economy is "unrecognisable" from that of 25 years ago and targets sectors that are offering substantial opportunities, council officials believe.

Ross Mackenzie, team leader for economic development at Fife Council said: "This has included the development of a strong financial and business services sector which currently employs nearly 19,000 people in Fife.

"Although this sector has seen a slight dip recently, we are confident that this will continue to grow in the longer term.

"Another sector which has grown to become a major employer in Fife is the personal services sector, with over 10,000 people currently employed in hotels, restaurants, education, health and social work, and a number of other service roles.

"One of Fife's key priorities at the moment is developing our rapidly growing renewable energy sector.

"Energy Park Fife is situated on the former Wellesley site, one of the largest coal mines in Fife, with the adjacent Methil docks previously being one of the busiest coal ports for exporting in the UK.

"After the coal mine was closed, this became the Kvaerner yard, which specialised in fabrication for offshore use, and now this has become the Energy Park where local companies such as Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) focus on renewable power sources such as off-shore wind and tidal. Also on this site is the brand new Hydrogen Office, a 1200sqm energyefficient office building which houses the Hydrogen Office Demonstration Centre, an incubation centre for small businesses, and flexible office accommodation.

"This is the only development of its type in Scotland and we hope it will attract a number of new companies and jobs as the project continues.

"Other developments which have taken place in areas which were hit particularly hard by the miners' strike include the John Smith Business Park in Kirkcaldy, focusing on high quality office accommodation to support our growing financial and services sector, and our continuing Business Incubator project which aims to make the first step into renting business property as easy as possible for young businesses."