CALLS are to be made for a public inquiry into cases of historic sexual and physical abuse in Scottish orphanages.

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson is to push for the demands of former residents of children's care homes to be met when he leads a major debate on the issue at Holyrood.

His is the first significant political intervention in a decade. In 2004, Lord McConnell, then the First Minister, made an unprecedented apology over the scandal.

One campaigner welcomed the debate, saying it was long overdue.

Mr Pearson said: "I will be asking is it not time we looked at a public inquiry or have a format which allows survivors the opportunity to have someone accept responsibility for what happened to them, and put services in place where victims can get practical support and counselling."

He added: "I'd like to hear, if a public inquiry is not the way forward, why is it not the way forward? What is happening instead which will be effective?"

The debate follows a motion put down by Mr Pearson which has been backed by more than 30 MSPs from different parties. It also called for a survivors' fund to be established, and for a 'time-bar' on civil cases to be lifted

Helen Holland, chair of the support group In Care Abuse Survivors (INCAS), said it was long needed and added: "What happened in children's homes should be a concern for every MSP."

Roseanna Cunningham, minister for community safety and legal affairs, said a number of inquiries and reviews had been held which had influenced policy and practice.