Scots blood scandal campaigner says PM’s apology means 'nothing' until compensation paid out

Bruce Norval was infected when he was just three years old
Bruce Norval was infected when he was just three years old -Credit:Peter Jolly

The Scots campaigner who led the fight for justice in the UK’s biggest health scandal says Rishi Sunak’s apology means “nothing” until £10billion compensation is paid out to victims.

Bruce Norval, 59, was one of 30,000 victims who were given contaminated blood or blood products by the NHS between 1970 and 1991. He was infected when he was just three years old and has campaigned for decades to expose the truth.

He argued the risks were known about the possibility of hepatitis C and HIV being transmitted through blood products and there was a massive cover-up.

Rishi Sunak making a statement following the publication of the Infected Blood Inquiry final report
Rishi Sunak making a statement following the publication of the Infected Blood Inquiry final report -Credit:JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Images

Yesterday, he was vindicated as Sir Brian Langstaff published his report into the UK’s Infected Blood scandal, saying it could have been avoided had warnings been heeded and patient safety put first. He also criticised a “subtle, pervasive and chilling” cover-up.

Bruce, who lives in the Black Isle, welcomed the report, calling it “a pilgrimage to the truth”. He went to the House of Commons to hear Sunak apologise last night but said: “Apologies mean nothing without alleviating the horror and the hardship in daily life.

“We need to change people’s lives. We need to get them into houses that are suitable for their disability, we need to get people in a position where they can live the best lives they have left.”

Inquiry report author Sir Brian Langstaff is greeted by campaigners at Westminster yesterday
Inquiry report author Sir Brian Langstaff is greeted by campaigners at Westminster yesterday -Credit:Jeff Moore/PA Wire

The Government has accepted the case for compensation, with details expected today. Most estimates put the final bill in the region of £10billion. Bruce said the figure was a conservative estimate and warned: “The announcement on compensation better not be without substance.”

The dad of two has been the driving force behind the inquiry. After the bitter disappointment of the Scottish Penrose Inquiry nine years ago, he was determined to fight on.

The Penrose Inquiry was a manifesto promise by the SNP government but victims claim it failed to uncover the full truth. Bruce said Langstaff’s report was a different story. He said: “An awful lot of the remit for the inquiry was Scottish-influenced and I am quite proud of that.

“Today was a pilgrimage to the truth, a sombre journey to complete a long, long battle. Our focus should be on how much time has been stolen from the living and how many lives have been stolen. The work the campaigners in Scotland have done is hugely reflected in the report, but there is no joy in this because it is so overdue.”

And he added: “I am angry at time stolen. Like so many families, instead of spending meaningful time to build nice memories, every minute I spent of my life doing this. But there is no celebrating today, there are too many dead, too many too knackered to take any pleasure from any compensation. I am not a conspiracy theorist – this was a conspiracy.”

He went on: “If they had supported us right at the beginning the damage to the families might have been mitigated. But because it wasn’t that damage has cascaded through generations. Looking at the content of the inquiry report, it is pretty clear why the Government tried to suppress this for so long because it is that bad, it is that horrific.”

He added: “I will have respect for Sir Brian until my dying day. He was the first person to truly listen in over 40 years.” Bruce also called for the Scottish Parliament to “find a home for a proper contaminated blood memorial in Edinburgh”. He said: “That would be a point of grief, focus and recognition all in one.”

He also paid tribute to fellow campaigners, many of whom have died before seeing justice done. He said: “I am only the driving force because I am the one that didn’t die or become too ill to campaign out of the nine original campaigners.”

In Monday’s Record, victim Robert Viana-Ross called for action to compensate victims. Yesterday, after hearing details of Sir Brian’s report, he said: “People always say the Government are liars but we have never had proof before. Now here it is in black and white. There was a cultural history of lying and they must be held accountable.”

Robert Viana-Ross
Record front page on Monday

Labour’s health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said the “harrowing report” underlined the scale of the scandal and how lives were put in danger across the UK. She said: “That the report has concluded authorities deliberately acted to hide the scale of this scandal is absolutely shocking and those to blame must be held to account.

“Those affected by this scandal must be properly compensated and steps should be taken to ensure the culture of secrecy in the NHS is eradicated.”

Director of the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service Marc Turner said it would review the inquiry’s findings “very carefully”. The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service understands and empathises with the profound impact the tragic events that have been the subject of this inquiry have had on infected and affected people,” he said. “We acknowledge the findings and sincerely apologise for the historical failings described.”

But he emphasised safety standards are now much greater and “rigorous donor selection and testing focus on minimising the risk of passing on infection by blood transfusion”. Public Health Minister Jenni Minto said an oversight group had been established to consider the inquiry’s recommendations.

She said: “On behalf of the Scottish Government, I reiterate our sincere apology. The Scottish Government has already accepted the moral case for compensation and is committed to working with the UK Government to ensure any scheme works as well as possible for victims.”

Don't miss the latest news from around Scotland and beyond - Sign up to our daily newsletter here.