On the Jeremy Vine Radio 2 show this week was a discussion about the recent apology given by First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to all the mothers and children who were separated, forcibly in some cases, shortly after birth, and given up for adoption, because the child had been born out of wedlock.
It is hard to believe that as recently as the 1960’s and 1970’s the cultural norms were so different to what they are now. The swinging 60’s and liberal 70’s were such an exciting time, as previous stuffy attitudes to sex, manners, drink, drugs, and morals all changed, arguably, at the time, for the better. It is not until we look back, years later, that we realise that somewhere in all the excitement of breaking the rules certain types of behaviour were allowed to happen, and crimes against children overlooked.
Homosexuality carried a prison sentence, under age sex between consenting teenagers was a crime often prosecuted, and mental health was considered a bestial condition which required those suffering to be locked away because it was unnatural behaviour. Morally, having a child out of wedlock was so unacceptable, particularly to the church, who had much more influence over life and laws, that there was no possibility of a young unmarried girl from keeping her child. Had she done so, she would have been rejected and shunned by society.
In the Radio Programme, various callers described how they gave birth at a young age, were told that there was no possibility of them being able to keep their baby, and that it would be easy for them to move on with their life without their child. The interviewees were elderly. Some had not seen their children again, but lived with their memories every day. Others had sought them out, had reunions, and formed rewarding friendships between the respective families. One lady described how the young girls had been encouraged to breast feed their babies for a week so as “to give them
the best start in life”.
One of the ladies compared the attitude of Britain to Scotland, and implored the British Prime Minister to apologise in the same way that Nicola Stugeon, who was visibly overcome with emotion during her speech. It was pointed out that the church in those days was heavily involved in the process of finding adoptive parents for the children. The regarded sex before marriage and birth out of wedlock a sin, of course, and thus supported the immediate adoption of the babies. The church in those days was much more influential in the way laws were crafted by government.
There are a number of ways that Scotland is way ahead of England in child abuse law due largely to the separate Scottish Parliament, which of course was, until her recent resignation, led by a woman not a man. Whether or not sex has anything to do with the difference in attitude is impossible to know. In the following ways, however, Scotland are ahead:-
- Scotland have abolished the time bar or Limitation Rule for child abuse personal injury compensation cases. Most cases, even from the past, can now be tried without being deemed, “out of time”.
- Scotland have created a Redress Scheme for the victims of abuse so as to make it easier to seek redress for crimes committed against them no matter how old.
- They have set up a Commission to examine past cases of abuse. This is, to be fair, similar to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (“IICSA”) in England.
Scotland have a new Parliament not steeped in history and tradition like England. There are fewer bodies to consult and, arguably fewer vested interests. There was, of course, the Westminster Module of IICSA, which looked at allegations relating to Parliament many years ago. As expected it found little that was new, and had not been reported before in the press. No such enquiry has been launched in Scotland, as far as I know, so the reasons for the difference in attitude between the two countries remain unknown to me.