In one of her final acts as First Minister, an emotional Ms Sturgeon condemned the practice, which is estimated to have forced 60,000 women – many of whom were unmarried – to part with their children.
Adoption practices in Scotland during the 20th century are among the “worst injustices in our history”, Ms Sturgeon said. She said forced adoption was “relatively common” in Scotland until the late 1970s.
“As a Government and a Parliament, we can set the record straight,” the First Minister 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.”
Forced adoption practices were caused by a society that treated women as “second class citizens”, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Addressing MSPs in the Holyrood chamber as victims and campaigners watched on from the public gallery, the First Minister said: “(Forced adoption) is a level of injustice which is hard now for us to comprehend.
“So today, how do we even begin to explain how such appalling acts could take place?
“Obviously, they were the product of a society where women were regarded as second class citizens, where unmarried mothers were stigmatised and where people in authority had too much power.”
Some children forcibly removed from their parents as a result of forced adoption were abused, Ms Sturgeon said.
Ms Sturgeon said: “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.”
The First Minister detailed the stories of three women who had their babies taken away to be adopted by other families.
“The horror of what happened to these women is almost impossible to comprehend,” she said. “It is the stuff of nightmares, yet these were not isolated cases – far from it.”
Ms Sturgeon said mothers were “lied to” and made to “feel worthless”.
“Some women were never even allowed to hold their babies, most never got the chance to say goodbye, and many were threatened with terrible consequences if they ever tried to make contact with a child,” she added.
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