Vulnerable children who had a right to expect care and compassion in homes and other institutions were, instead, subjected to the most horrific abuse. Of that there is no doubt.
The experiences of those who suffered because of flawed systems of the past that allowed predators unfettered access to young people is a source of national shame. The very least that those victims, now adults, deserve is for the truth – the whole, distressing, unvarnished truth – about what they went through to be made public.
That’s why the establishment of the Scottish Abuse Inquiry was such a very important step.
We have to examine where mistakes were made. We may think that such crimes are consigned to the past, that having uncovered scandal after scandal, we are too well-informed, too sophisticated to allow any repeat. Such complacency is reckless.
Just as important as learning from the systemic failures which led to cases of abuse is the need to let the voices of victims be heard. As frightened children, they were powerless to speak out. Now, they demand to be heard and we should listen. As a society, we must acknowledge the pain of victims and, as far as is possible, make amends for the wrongs done to them.
It is deeply disturbing, then, that the inquiry is in chaos before it has even begun. Deputy First Minister John Swinney has met with victims to assure them that the inquiry will go ahead, and that they can trust the process.
But words are not enough. Now, the political establishment is in danger of failing them for a second time. In order to re-establish trust in the process, we need not just reassurance from senior Government figures but complete transparency about what has gone wrong so far.
If the victims of abuse do not feel confident that the inquiry can and will operate independently and without fear or favour then it is of no value.
Whatever it takes, John Swinney has to get this inquiry back on track.