Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Scottish Government is “deeply ashamed” of the historical abuse of children in care as he confirmed plans to offer financial redress to survivors.
Mr Swinney told MSPs the government had accepted the recommendations of an independent review group that there should be compensation for those abused in care, with advanced payments made to the elderly and infirm.
While the details of how the scheme will work are yet to be decided, he said care providers who ran the establishments where abuse took place could be compelled to help provide funding.
Watched by abuse survivors sitting in the Scottish Parliament’s public gallery, Mr Swinney said: “Today, on behalf of the Scottish Government, I offer an unreserved and heartfelt apology to everyone who suffered abuse in care in Scotland. We are deeply ashamed of what happened.
“I know that nothing can ever make up for the suffering which survivors have endured. Nonetheless, they have told us that redress is an important element of justice and that it would provide some degree of recognition and acknowledgement. That is why we will have a redress scheme in Scotland, one which treats survivors with sensitivity and respect.”
He added: “Presiding Officer, I want to address survivors directly and say to them today, we believe you, and we are sorry.”
Mr Swinney said legislation for the redress scheme would be introduced by the end of the current parliamentary term in 2021, with advanced payments for survivors who may not live long enough to apply to the statutory scheme available next year.
Last month the review group called for the introduction of a redress scheme after 99 per cent of victims responding to a national consultation backed the move.
The group said compensation should be available to those abused in care, with the review calling for the introduction of a combination payment – a flat-rate standard payment along with an individual experience payment taking account of the severity and consequences of the abuse.
Survivors of child abuse, many now in old age, have been calling on the Scottish Government to consider the issue of financial redress for many years, but stepped up pressure following the establishment of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in 2015.
They cite the example of countries such as Northern Ireland where a national inquiry recommended compensation payments ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 depending on the severity of the abuse, and the Republic of Ireland where payouts of up to £270,000 are considered in the most serious cases.
In Australia, the authorities have set aside more than £2 billion for survivors of sexual abuse as part of the National Redress Scheme.