By Bill Heaney

The Scottish Government will be making a full apology to parents who were forced to give up their children at birth to adoption, mainly because they were not married at the time.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised Labour MSP Neil Bibby, who raised the matter, that this would happen but only when the government were absolutely certain that it was done in a fair and proper manner.

She told MSPs: “Yes, we will consider that. Like everybody else, I feel deep sadness that, in the past, women were forced to give their children up for adoption because of prevailing moral and social attitudes.

“Major shifts have occurred in adoption policy and practice, ensuring that the focus is now placed on providing secure and permanent relationships for some of our most undersupported children.

“We are engaging with campaigners who are calling for an apology, so that we can better understand their experiences and consider the issue more fully. I give my commitment that we will continue to do that.

“In recent years, we have come a long way in improving outcomes for looked-after children and young people, but I know that there is still much more to do. That is why I and the Government have committed to implementing the findings of the promise to ensure that all looked-after children will grow up safe, happy and loved.”

Neil Bibby told the Holyrood chamber that his constituent Marion McMillan was one of 60,000 Scottish mothers who were compelled to give up a baby for adoption simply because they were unmarried.

He said: “What they went through was horrific, and many of them have experienced a lifetime of grief and pain. Marion has worked with victims of forced adoption from around the world, has reunited mothers with children and has given evidence that helped to secure the world’s first Government apology for forced adoption, in Australia in 2013. However, there has never been a formal apology for the injustice of forced adoption here, in Scotland and the UK.

“Marion is now in her 70s and is terminally ill. Her dying wish is that the victims in Scotland receive the apology that they deserve and that it happen soon. I therefore urge the First Minister to take swift action to confront this shameful chapter in Scotland’s history and, as soon as possible, deliver our formal statement to Parliament, issuing a Government apology for forced adoptions on behalf of our entire nation.”

The First Minister assured him she would give that commitment.

She said: “I take the matter really seriously. I hope that Neil Bibby will accept—I am sure that he will—that it is important, when we do something like this, that we get it right and listen to the people who are, understandably, calling for an apology.

“I, too, have read about Marion McMillan’s experience, and it is absolutely heartbreaking. It is not isolated and unique—that happened to too many women back in days when attitudes were very different from those that prevail today.

“I do not know all the detail, but I know that in the Republic of Ireland, for example, there was a concern that work around the issue did not deliver what campaigners had been calling for.

“Therefore, it is really important that we understand what an apology would seek to cover and how it can be framed in a way that gives the campaigners the closure—if that is an appropriate word—that they are looking for.

“I am very committed to considering the matter properly and fully and to doing so quickly but in a way that delivers what the campaigners feel is important to them.”

  • The children at the top of the page are played by models.

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