Scottish Prime Minister apologizes for forced adoptions: ‘Finally’

Two victims of forced adoption in Scotland, Esther Robertson and Jeannot Farmer

NOS NewsWednesday, 4:29 PM

  • Fleur Kleinhuis

    foreign editor

  • Fleur Kleinhuis

    foreign editor

Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologized for the forced adoptions in Scotland between 1950 and the first half of the 1980s. More than 60,000 Scottish women were forced to give up their child because they had become pregnant out of wedlock.

Among the women at the Scottish Parliament to attend Sturgeon’s speech is 62-year-old Esther Robertson. She is one of the children who was forcibly given up for adoption. “It’s an exciting day,” she tells NOS, prior to the prime minister’s apologies. “I’m nervous too, but I’m super excited. It’s unbelievable that this is happening today, we’ve been waiting for this for years. It’s finally time to apologize to all women and children.”

Esther Robertson, pictured 6 years old

The idea to take the children away from unmarried mothers came from the then conservative British government. The bastard children and unmarried mothers were not welcome in society. Robertson: “My mother was a 17-year-old girl from Edinburgh who was pregnant by a black US Air Force soldier. She was forced to give me up. I was adopted twice before I was 3 years old.”

I didn’t give my son up for adoption, he was taken from me.

John Farmer

Jeannot Farmer, 66, is also present in parliament. Farmer was 22 years old when her son was taken from her immediately after his birth. “I could have just taken him home,” she says. “My family supported me, but I was unmarried. After giving birth, he was immediately taken away, I couldn’t even hold him.”

To allow the young mothers to give birth in secret, they were placed in special homes who were far from home, the so-called mother and baby houses. That’s also where Esther Robertson was born: “I’ve come into contact with women who have given birth there. They said it was a cold, harsh and horrible place, where the girls were treated like slaves. They were encouraged to spend as little time as possible bring with the babies.”

Not only in mother and baby houses the babies were taken, also in hospitals. The latter happened with Farmer. “I didn’t give my son up for adoption, he was taken from me.”

Jeannot Farmer, on the photo 22 years old

The interest group Movement for an Adoption Apology UK (MAA) has been talking to the Scottish government about the apology for years and hopes for more than just an apology. “We want mental health care to be provided for the women so that they can process what has happened to them and that they have the right to request data from their babies taken so that they can find them. Now only children can find their mothers , not the mother the child.”

That also happened with Farmer. She was only able to hold her son in his arms for the first time after 32 years, after he had requested her data. “In 2010 he sent me a message on Facebook. A week later we met. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had never seen or held him and now I could meet him.”

Form of recognition

The apology doesn’t make up for what happened, Robertson says, but it’s a step in the right direction. “The apologies are a form of acknowledgment that the women were innocent, that the system has failed. It’s also about transparency, it’s important that people know this. We’re not talking about things that happened a long time ago, it’s about people like me who still have to live with the consequences every day.”

In her speech, Prime Minister Sturgeon acknowledged the mental problems that both parents and children have due to the forced adoption, but she did not yet come up with concrete solutions.

In terms of apologies, other countries preceded Scotland. For example, in 2013 Australia became the first country to formally apologize to mothers for systematically taking children away. The Canadian government followed in 2018. The MAA hopes that apologies will also be made in other parts of the United Kingdom.