QC apologises on behalf of nation for the suffering of child migrants

The Scottish Government has apologised for the “suffering” of child migrants sent abroad by institutions entrusted to care for them.

Thousands of children from Scotland were sent overseas through child migration schemes that ran until 1971.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has already heard evidence of sexual and physical abuse of former child migrants sent from Scotland to Australia and Canada – some of whom were falsely told they had no family.

As the latest phase of the inquiry focusing on the child migration schemes opens, Christine O’Neill QC, representing the Scottish Government, said it “accepts and acknowledges the very particular role of the state” in the child migration programme.

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Pointing out the devolved Scottish Government was not operational at the time of the schemes, she said it fully endorses an formal apology then-prime minister Gordon Brown made in parliament in 2010 to children and their families on behalf of the nation.

A legal representative for the UK government highlighted Mr Brown’s apology, which had cross-party support, and has been reiterated by subsequent prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May.

O’Neill said more than £30 million has been paid out to those subject to the migration scheme since UK government redress payments came into force in March.

More than 1,500 people from across the UK have received the £20,000 payment, including 121 from Scotland, nearly half of the estimated 254 eligible. It took the total paid out in Scotland to £2.42m.

Stuart Gale QC, representing the Former Boys and Girls Abused of Quarriers’ Homes, which sent more than 7,000 children from Scotland overseas mainly to work on farms, told the inquiry that following the setting up of the redress scheme some may question the need for further examination of child migration.

He referenced Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s remarks that millions of pounds of police funding was being “spaffed up the wall” on historic abuse investigations and accused him of “staggering insensitivity”.

Mr Gale said evidence taken and still to be given shows the need for their experience to be “formally recognised and investigated”.

The inquiry also heard apologies from organisations for their involvement in child migration from Scotland, including Quarriers, Christian Brothers, Sisters of Nazareth and Barnardo’s.

The inquiry continues.

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