Child who emigrated from Scotland suffered ‘catalogue of abuse’ in British colonies, inquiry told

Many children who emigrated from Scotland to British colonies suffered a “catalogue of abuse” that had lasting impacts on their lives, according to an inquiry’s senior counsel.

Colin MacAulay QC gave his closing remarks to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry on Tuesday, when he set out his interpretation of evidence gathered during the child migrant case study.

It was heard youngsters were sent overseas as a way to make sure countries were populated by white Britons.

Mr MacAulay said: “Many child migrants experience a catalogue of sexual abuse, physical abuse, deprivation, inadequate education and many other forms of abuse.

“There was a desire to ensure that the empire was populated by white British stock.”

He added there were also sectarian motives, particularly from the Catholic Church in Scotland.

The majority of children were sent to Canada and Australia, with a smaller number sent to colonies such as Southern Rhodesia, which is today part of Zimbabwe.

It was heard the first motivation for emigration during the 19th century was as a form of punishment but this developed into a philanthropic pursuit, with the belief youngsters could pursue a better life than they had experienced in Scotland.

The inquiry heard there was little effort to make sure the lives of those who emigrated were to a suitable enough standard and many felt lasting loneliness, as well suffering from poor levels of education that had lifelong impacts.

Mr MacAulay told the inquiry it was often the case that informed consent of the child or family was not given.

He argued many of the children were too young to understand the way in which their lives would be altered by taking part in the programmes, which appear to have finished in 1970.

The inquiry before judge Lady Smith in Edinburgh continues.

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