Swinney stresses importance of new historic child abuse Bill in statement to Parliament

A new Bill before Holyrood is among the most important it will consider, the Deputy First Minister has said.

Making a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced last week, John Swinney outlined what it aims to do.

Those who were the victims of abuse while in care before December 2004 will be able to apply for a payment of up to £80,000, which will require further investigations into their case, or a fixed rate payment of £10,000.

Mr Swinney (pictured) told MSPs the scheme could cost up to £400 million.

He said: “There is no doubt in my mind that this Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that this Parliament will consider in its lifetime.”

“With this Bill, we again say to survivors, this should not have happened, we are sorry for what happened and we will act, collectively as a country, to do all that we can to address the suffering that too many of our fellow citizens endured in their childhood.”

MSPs from all parties expressed their support for the Bill.

Conservative MSP Jamie Greene asked how much initial set up of the scheme would cost.

Mr Swinney said: “This is a notoriously difficult issue to predict and what I can commit the Government to is to ensure that the administrative process is sufficiently established to make sure that payments can be made and I’m satisfied with the progress that’s been made in the advance payment scheme … that has been done with financial efficiency at heart.”

He added: “The Government doesn’t intend to set this up with a financial cap on it.

“It will be set up as a mechanism of making the payments and obviously financial provision will have to be made for that.”

The Bill is intended to be used in lieu of legal action, while organisations implicated in historical abuse will make contributions to the fund.

Labour MSP Iain Gray raised the issue of victims having to sign over their right to seek legal action.

The Deputy First Minister said: “The judgment that I’ve come to is that this Bill provides the most reliable means by which an individual may be able to secure financial recompense for the suffering that they have endured and in its broadest sense it will relieve them of a civil legal process about which they are not guaranteed a positive outcome.”

Mr Swinney added the Bill has been devised in consultation with survivors.

Greens MSP John Finnie asked if the scheme will let organisations “off the hook” for historic abuse.

The Deputy First Minister said: “The proposal in this Bill provides a more reliable and dependable opportunity for survivors to be able to advance claims that they have compared to the prospect of a civil legal action.”

Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart asked Mr Swinney how confident he is that organisations will co-operate and make contributions to the scheme.

He replied that “constructive” discussions are being held with a number of organisations.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Russell Cheyne / PA Wire.