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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in the light of the prescription law of Scotland. The second important issue to keep in mind is that not all survivors want to go down the court route. They might find that it is not for them, or they might not be able to do so successfully given the very significant procedural and evidential hurdles that remain. In that regard, I note that the limitation legislation did not remove all barriers to a successful action. It removed one barrier—the three-year time bar, which applied de facto in all cases that were brought. Those two key issues are important as the backdrop.

The cabinet secretary has said that he will continue his reflections on this important subject, and I welcome that approach. I think that it is recognised that the cabinet secretary has a deep and personal commitment to securing access to justice for survivors. In the instant case, that means finding a redress system that is workable in practice. It is not good enough for Parliament simply to come up with something on paper that will not work in practice and that does not take account of what are perhaps unrealistic expectations of the role of the redress scheme and, in some instances, of the role of civil litigation with regard to this issue, because of the immense hurdles that survivors will face in the civil courts in terms of evidential and procedural rules.

It is fair to say that the cabinet secretary made the point in his response to the stage 1 report—I think quite fairly—that there is no evidence of any international redress scheme with no form of waiver in place. It is also fair to say that we can come up with something different. However, the international evidence suggests that the issue has been wrestled with by many people in many places and no workable alternative has been found. That is important to bear in mind in future considerations.

I understand that some care providers, in their written submissions to the committee, suggested that the waiver was important to the making of financial contributions. Those care providers included Aberlour, Quarriers and the Church of Scotland’s CrossReach organisation. That issue has to be weighed significantly in the further deliberations on the bill, and I am sure that it will be. It is fair to say that, without financial contributions, there will not be a redress scheme—that is the stark reality, and I believe that, if that happened, it would be a failure on the part of the Parliament in its duty to survivors.

Parliament has had an honourable track record in recent years. It has shown that it recognises the state’s failure in its duty of care to some of our most vulnerable children. It has also shown that it is really determined to see justice done. Therefore I feel confident that, after further scrutiny has taken place, we will see, in due course, the bill pass at stage 3.