Swinney apologises to infected blood victims

The final report of the Infected Blood Inquiry was released on Monday.

The First Minister spoke in Holyrood on Tuesday
The First Minister spoke in Holyrood on Tuesday (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scotland’s First Minister has apologised to the victims of the infected blood scandal.

Around 3,000 people are believed to have been affected by contaminated blood north of the border between the 1970s and 1990s, with the chairman of the Infected Blood Inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, describing it as a “calamity”.

The final report of the inquiry was published on Monday and was followed by apologies from the Prime Minister and a commitment to compensation.

On Tuesday, John Swinney said: “Today, in the light of the final report from the inquiry, on behalf of the Scottish Government, and as First Minister of Scotland, I apologise unreservedly to everyone who has been affected in any way by these events.

“To everyone who has been affected, I want to say that you have been failed by the organisations and processes that should have been in place to protect and support you, and I am sorry for the hurt, worry and damage that you have suffered.”

The First Minister paid tribute to those who were infected and campaigners, saying it was a “disgrace” they had to “work so hard” for justice to be done, adding: “The fact that they had to work so hard and for so long is an utter condemnation of those who have put obstacles in the way of the truth being revealed.”

His apology was the second from a first minister made in Holyrood to those affected by infected blood, after Nicola Sturgeon did the same following the publication of the final report of the Penrose Inquiry into hepatitis C and HIV infections caused by the use of blood products.

Sir Brian Langstaff was the chairman of the inquiry
Sir Brian Langstaff was the chairman of the inquiry (Tracey Croggon/Infected Blood Inquiry/PA)

The First Minister committed his Government to support UK ministers to deliver the necessary compensation, as well as “take the necessary steps” to ensure a “rebalancing of the system” in considering the report’s recommendations.

Watching from the public gallery was Bill Wright, a constituent of Mr Swinney, who he said was among the first to visit him when he was elected to Westminster in 1997.

“Bill contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood products. He has faced – and continues to face – acute health challenges as a result of this treatment,” he said.

“It has had an overwhelming effect on his life and the family who love him.

“But despite this intense level of suffering, Bill, with enormous dignity, has campaigned tirelessly for justice on behalf of Haemophilia Scotland to secure justice for those who have been affected.”

He added: “Without the leadership and unrelenting work from individuals like Bill, this report would not have happened. This truth would not have been exposed. This justice would never have been secured.

“Having walked on this journey with my constituent Bill Wright for these last 27 years, I am humbled that he is now able to hear, directly from his local Member of Parliament, now this country’s First Minister, the direct and unreserved apology from Government for the suffering that he has endured.”

The First Minister’s apology was welcomed across the chamber, with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross saying the report was a “complete and utter vindication” of campaigners.

“Lives were ruined, many people died never to witness the justice and recognition they deserve,” he said.

“This was a devastating and appalling failure by the British state,” he added.

“The actions of individuals and organisations over decades are a stain on our nation.

The Scottish Tory leader said the scandal was a ‘disgusting betrayal’
The Scottish Tory leader said the scandal was a ‘disgusting betrayal’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Far too many tried to cover this up, dismiss the victims, delay justice and destroy evidence, simply to protect themselves.

“Their disgusting betrayal of fellow citizens must never be forgotten or forgiven.”

Turning to compensation, Mr Ross said: “No amount of money can compensate for the impact this has had on the victims still alive today, or the children that have grown up without a mum or dad, or a parent who grieved the loss of a child.”

The Scottish Tory leader gave a commitment to support the First Minister and Government with what they need to ensure compensation from the UK-wide scheme is delivered as quickly as possible.

And Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar reiterated the First Minister’s apology, describing the report as “damning”.

“We as a collective are truly sorry for the pain that people have suffered and for the failures of politicians, clinicians and the state to keep them safe over decades,” he said.

Anas Sarwar described the report as ‘damning’
Anas Sarwar described the report as ‘damning’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

He added: “The horrific reality is that the truth has only come to light because of those who relentlessly campaigned for justice and we as a collective across this nation owe them a huge thank you.”

The Labour leader went on to say that “too many institutions” in Scotland still try to protect their relationships rather than admit mistakes, asking the First Minister what his Government can do to “end that culture”.

The First Minister pledged to do “everything I can” to improve the culture in public institutions.