Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 17th December 2020.

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Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am pleased to open this debate on the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill. The bill is a significant milestone in delivering a redress scheme for survivors, which many have fought relentlessly to achieve. I acknowledge their bravery and resilience, which have brought us to this point.

I also acknowledge those who are no longer with us. It is right and necessary that we remember their contribution to today’s debate and their persistence in ensuring that we reached this point. I hope that we can now join collectively, as a Parliament and as a nation, to deliver a redress scheme that acknowledges the injustice and the suffering with honesty, humanity and dignity.

The work, the bill and the scheme are for survivors. I extend my sincere thanks to all the survivors who have engaged with us throughout the consultation and the bill process. Their input has been crucial in shaping the bill, and they will continue to play a central part in the development of the scheme.

I thank the Education and Skills Committee for its comprehensive stage 1 report and the Finance and Constitution Committee and the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee for their consideration of the bill. We responded to the Education and Skills Committee’s very detailed report in a very short space of time. I hope that members of that committee and the Parliament find the Government’s response of assistance in considering how we will take forward the issues that the committee raised. I am grateful for that committee’s support for the general principles of the bill and its acknowledgement of the work that has been done to date with survivor communities and organisations, and I look forward to the debate, which will—I have no doubt—be open, positive, compassionate and constructive. I assure members of the Government’s willingness to engage constructively on the issues that the Education and Skills Committee raised in its consideration of the bill in order that we can maximise agreement on the bill’s provisions.

The bill deals with extremely complex and sensitive matters, and the development of the redress scheme has involved many difficult and balanced judgments. We have learned from schemes around the world, and we will continue to do so as we design and deliver the best redress scheme for the circumstances in Scotland.

We have excellent practice at home from which to learn. Our advance payment scheme has continued to make payments throughout the pandemic. Since April 2019, we have been able to make payments to more than 520 survivors. Financial redress and also the acknowledgement and the apology that are so important to our most elderly and ill survivors have been provided. The scheme has proven that we can deliver a scheme that works for survivors.

Scotland failed to protect its most vulnerable children. The bill is one part of our unshakeable commitment to face up to that shame and make sure that that never happens again.

That must be a collective endeavour, and we believe that all those with a responsibility for the failings of the past have a responsibility to do the right thing today. I want to work with the Parliament to deliver the best possible scheme for survivors and to ensure that those who have a moral responsibility to participate do so. The scheme encourages, facilitates and recognises those that are willing to make fair financial contributions to redress payments of survivors. That is what survivors have repeatedly told us that they want to see.

I have noted the committee’s emphasis on the affordability of the scheme for providers. A central element of our approach has been to link contributions to a proportion of the actual redress payments that would be made in the lifetime of the scheme. Taking an alternative approach, such as seeking a capped or fixed contribution, fails to deliver assurance that the organisation will play its part for every survivor who receives a redress payment. It also carries a risk, as seen in other redress schemes around the world, that the cap could be set too low, given the uncertainty over how many survivors will apply to the scheme. [

Interruption

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I will give way to Jamie Greene, first, and I will then come to Mr Johnson.