Nicola Sturgeon has issued an "unreserved" apology over the historic scandal of women being forced to give up their babies for adoption in Scotland.
Fighting back tears, the outgoing SNP leader's apology applies to the mothers, fathers and children affected by the human rights abuse.
The coercion covered the 1950s through to the 1970s and caused lasting heartache.
In one of her final acts as First Minister, Sturgeon condemned the practice, which is estimated to have forced 60,000 women – many of whom were unmarried – 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 unreserved apology.
“We are sorry.”
She said of the children: “It is important to say very clearly that many of them went to loving homes – acknowledging these injustices should never be seen as a rejection of the deep bonds that people share with adopted families.
“Nothing can ever invalidate the love that these families have for one another. But it is also clear that many of those affected – far too many – had a very, very different experience.
“We know some will always have lacked a sense of belonging, some may have suffered mistreatment or abuse.
“And all of them will have grown up believing that their mother chose to put them up for adoption of their own free will.
“Understandably, that has affected them – and yet it was never true.”
Campaigners have long demanded an apology and the issue was taken up by Labour MSPs Monica Lennon and Neil Bibby.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “These appalling cruelties are perhaps among the most heinous of injustices that our society has inflicted on women and their children.
“Marion McMillan from Paisley is one of those mothers, she is now in her 70s and terminally ill. Her dying wish is that victims in Scotland receive the apology they deserve.
“Marion has worked with other 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.
“I commend the brave and tireless work of Marion and all the other women who have fought for so long.
“It is right that there is formal apology in Scotland for the injustice of forced adoption here and it is beyond time to confront this shameful chapter in Scotland’s history.
“For some this will provide closure, but for many this will just be the beginning."
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