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FERGUS EWING: I asked ‘could we not just admit we were wrong?’

By Fergus Ewing

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Shona Robison.
Shona Robison.

Whether in Holyrood or London, when our parliamentary committees work well, they can exert real pressure upon government ministers; particularly where their arguments are brittle as balsa wood. The petitions committee does just that.

Last week in Holyrood, the deputy first minister gave evidence to the committee about the “Fornethy survivors”. These are a group of about 200 ladies who, when very young girls in Glasgow, were sent for about six to eight weeks for a holiday to Fornethy House in Angus.

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There they were abused, beaten and humiliated. We heard from some of them that if they did not eat their food they were force fed and, when sick, made to eat their own vomit. Some were sexually abused.

Because the legislation passed excluded some types of abuse, these survivors have been denied justice.

Moreover, Glasgow Corporation who oversaw this and owned the property in which the girls stayed, destroyed the records of those involved, so it is now hard for any of them to prove what happened, and go to court.

The DFM, Shona Robison MSP, stuck doggedly to her lines. Everyone was sorry; it was all very sad; but parliament had said they were not able to help this group so that was that. I asked her: Could we not just admit we were wrong, as, if any such horrific abuse occurred, surely recompense should be made? Just because it occurred over a shorter period it was still horrendous abuse of young defenceless girls.

Fair to say the committee members, all of whom asked probing questions, were not overly impressed. We have more work to do to try to help the ladies involved. They only want justice. Is that not what parliaments are for? We will persevere.

Post Office scandal

Another injustice is taking place down south. Mr Bates the dogged hero who fought for sub-postmasters and mistresses all over the country got his offer of compensation from the body set up by the government to pay it out.

It was a paltry one-sixth of his calculation of his losses. He described it as “cruel, derisory and crumbs from the table.”

He and around 700 others were persecuted by the Post Office, who then covered up the failings of their Horizon computer system. It is the greatest serial injustice of our times.

We did not have power over the Post Office here in Scotland. But we still have a duty to right these wrongs.

I sincerely hope the Scottish Government gets a grip of this in the next few weeks, or else I fear we will be letting our Post Office victims down too.

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