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Sturgeon fights back tears to offer ‘heartfelt' apology for forced adoptions

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised for forced adoptions (Andrew Cowan/PA)
PA Scotland Political Reporters

An emotional Nicola Sturgeon has given a “sincere, heartfelt and unreserved” apology to the thousands of women in Scotland who were forced to give up their babies for adoption.

In one of her last acts as First Minister, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “The horror of what happened to these women is almost impossible to comprehend. It is the stuff of nightmares.”

She said that until the late 1970s, forced adoption was “relatively common” in Scotland, with “many thousands of children” taken from their mothers, who were mostly young and unmarried.

These women were “forced or coerced” into adoption by charities, churches, health professionals and social services, Ms Sturgeon said, adding some of them suffered “physical mistreatment or abuse” while others were “denied appropriate healthcare”.

She added that mothers were “consistently lied to” about the adoption process, and given “no information about what was happening”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “When they did object, they were bullied or ignored.

“Some women were never even allowed to hold their babies, most never got the chance to say a proper goodbye. And many were threatened with terrible consequences if they ever tried to make contact with their child.

“For these mothers it was a living nightmare, a nightmare from which they have never truly been able to wake.

“The grief, heartbreak and shame of what happened has been a constant throughout their lives.”

The First Minister told MSPs that the issuing of a formal apology by governments was an action reserved for “the worst injustices in our history”.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a ‘sincere, heartfelt and unreserved apology’ to women forced to give up their babies for adoption in Scotland (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She added: “Without doubt the adoption practices that prevailed in this country for decades during the 20th century fit that description.”

An apology to those affected has been a “very long time coming”, she added.

Fighting back tears, Ms Sturgeon condemned the practice, which is estimated to have forced 60,000 women to part with their children.

“As a Government and a Parliament, we can set the record straight,” she said.

“We can acknowledge the terrible wrongs that were done. And we can say with one voice that we are sorry.

“So today, as First Minister, on behalf of the Scottish Government, I say directly to the mothers who had their babies taken away from them, to the sons and the daughters who were separated from their parents, to the fathers who were denied their rights, and to families who have lived with this legacy: for the decades of pain that you have suffered, I offer today a sincere, heartfelt and reserved apology.

“We are sorry.

“No words can ever make up for what has happened to you, but I hope this apology will bring you some measure of solace.”