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 Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

Perfect—I am very pleased to be called to speak in the debate.

Although I am not a member of the Education and Skills Committee, which is the lead committee, I have a particular interest in the subject matter because I was the Scottish Government minister tasked with steering through the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill. In the stage 3 debate on the bill in June 2017, I considered it of the utmost importance to recognise the bravery and perseverance of survivors, who have had such a long and arduous fight to set right the terrible injustices that they have suffered.

The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament. It was just one element of a suite of actions that the Scottish Government undertook to carry out following on from the recommendations set forth further to the Scottish Human Rights Commission’s interaction process. Further to that process, the Scottish Government has taken several actions, including setting up a national confidential forum, the establishment of the Future Pathways support fund, the support for Margaret Mitchell’s member’s bill, which became the Apologies (Scotland) Act 2016, the establishment of the Scottish child abuse inquiry and the undertaking to propose a redress scheme. We have heard about the advance payments that have already been made under that scheme. It has evidently been a long journey for the Scottish Parliament, and importantly, for the survivors.

It is important to recall the backdrop to the bill, because it puts several key issues in context. The key issue that the bill must address is the most efficacious way in which to set up the non-adversarial redress scheme. It will have to have the means to pay out the contributions from the providers of care concerns. I understand that that is a key issue for the survivors because, quite rightly, they feel that those providers of care have a moral responsibility. I agree entirely with that sentiment. Seeing society recognise the harm that was done to those individuals and doing right by them is part of the important task that we are engaged in. That has been a persistent ask of survivors over many years.

As to the mechanics proposed, I know—and we have heard this afternoon—that the most controversial issue is the waiver. I note that the Law Society of Scotland, for example, has raised particular legal issues with it. As a member of the Law Society of Scotland, I understand the rationale for those concerns but I feel that they could be overcome, certainly from a legal perspective.

In considering the issue, it is always important that we keep two particular issues in mind. The first is the role of the redress scheme. The scheme is to be a non-adversarial alternative to court, offering a faster and more straightforward process. It is intended to be less traumatic for survivors, in particular, because of the in-built support that it entails. Also, it will encompass within its scope the pre-1964 survivors, which was an issue that we simply could not square under limitation legislation,