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Daly was soon active in the Scottish Mineworkers' Union. His initial involvement was in the labour movement's youth wing; amongst other activities he represented the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) on an international youth delegation to Moscow in 1945. He was chair of the Scottish TUC's Youth Committee, and later was elected chair of the Scottish Youth Committee of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). He held a variety of offices in the Glencraig NUM Branch, probably the most important for an aspiring activist was his ten years as Workman's Inspector, an appointment provided for under the coal mines safety legislation.
Although active in the CPGB from 1940, he was having differences with party doctrine from the late 1940s. Despite these differences, in 1951 Daly spent some time as full-time party agent in West Fife. He eventually left the Party in 1956, shortly before the mass exodus of membership over the Soviet invasion of Hungary. He became associated with the formation of the "New Left", in its journals New Reasoner and then New Left Review. In 1957, Daly helped to found the Fife Socialist League. He was elected as a County Councillor for the Ballingry division in May 1958, and at the 1959 UK general election, he took 10.7% of the vote in West Fife, easily beating the CPGB candidate. When the FSL disbanded in 1964, Daly joined the Labour Party.
His rise through the NUM ranks was rapid. He was elected to the National Union of Mineworkers Scottish Area Executive Committee in 1962, became the full-time agent for the Fife, Clackmannan and Stirling District a year later, and then General Secretary of the Scottish Area NUM in 1965. Daly was part of the movement in the mid-1960s for the abolition of piecework at the coalface, and its replacement by a national day wage structure—the National Power Loading Agreement (NPLA) of 1966. In 1968, Daly was elected General Secretary of the NUM, and following what had by then almost become a tradition in the NUM, worked with two right-of-centre Presidents, Sid Ford and Joe Gormley. He steered the union through two major strikes in 1972 and 1974. Both strikes were a response to a massive falling behind of miners wages generally, and of coalface workers wages particularly; these occasioned by the effects of the "standstill" clauses in the NPLA, where the highest paid colliers in the Midlands and Nottinghamshire gave up any real pay increases as they waited until faceworkers' shift rates in Scotland, Wales and other areas caught up.
Following the 1974 strike, Prime Minister Edward Heath called a general election over the issue of "who governs Britain". He lost, although his successor as leader of the Conservative Party successfully all but destroyed the NUM little over ten years later. Daly sustained a serious injury in a road accident in 1975, and had prolonged leave of absence following it. He was succeeded as NUM General Secretary by Peter Heathfield from the Derbyshire Area in 1984.
- "A catalogue of the papers of Lawrence Daly". University of Warwick. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
- "Glencraig Characters: Politics". Retrieved 30 May 2009.
- Worsley, Peter. "The New Reasoner". Retrieved 30 May 2009.
- "On This Day: Miners strike against government". BBC. 9 January 1972. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
- Obituary for Daly in The Guardian
|General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers