A new inquiry has found that many children who emigrated from Scotland to British colonies suffered a “catalogue of abuse” that had lasting impacts on their lives.

During his closing remarks to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry earlier today, Colin MacAulay QC set out his interpretation of evidence gathered during the child migrant case study.

The inquiry heard youngsters were sent overseas in a bid to make sure countries were populated by white Britons.

Mr MacAulay said: “Many child migrants experience a catalogue of sexual abuse, physical abuse, deprivation, inadequate education and many other forms of abuse.

“There was a desire to ensure that the empire was populated by white British stock.

“It may be the case that sectarian motives entered, particularly with the Catholic Church in Scotland.”

Judge Lady Smith, who is chairing the inquiry, described Father Nicol – an administrator of the Australian Catholic Immigration Committee – as being a “key player” in the emigration of children.

Mr MacAulay then pointed to a meeting attended by the priest that “clearly” had a discussion with “sectarian overtones”.

The inquiry previously heard the Church of Scotland was pressured to send more children to Australia to keep up with the Catholic Church and other faiths.

The majority of children involved in the migrations schemes were sent to Canada and Australia, with a smaller number sent to colonies such as Southern Rhodesia, which is today part of Zimbabwe.

It was heard the first motivation for emigration during the 19th century was as a form of punishment but this developed into a philanthropic pursuit, with the belief youngsters could pursue a better life than they had experienced in Scotland.

The inquiry heard there was little effort to make sure the lives of those who emigrated were to a suitable enough standard and many felt lasting loneliness, as well suffering from poor levels of education that had lifelong impacts.

Mr MacAulay told the inquiry it was often the case that informed consent of the child or family was not given.

He argued many of the children were too young to understand the way in which their lives would be altered by taking part in the programmes, which appear to have finished in 1970.

The inquiry later heard from lawyers representing abuse survivor organisations, Former Boys and Girls Abused of Quarriers’ Homes (FBGA) and INCAS.

Stuart Gale QC, for FBGA, said: “Many children were sent to a life of isolation and desolation.

“They suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

“One of the recurring themes throughout this case study is the issue of isolation – it’s one that’s particularly disturbing.”

John Scott QC, for INCAS, said: “These days, what happened would be called human trafficking.”

Lawyers for the Lord Advocate and the Chief Constable of Police Scotland have offered their continued support to the work of the inquiry.

Institutions that had taken part in the migration schemes issued apologies through legal representatives to survivors of abuse.

These were the Christian Brothers, Barnardo’s, the Good Shepherd Sisters, the Bishops Conference of Scotland, Sisters of Nazareth, Quarriers and the Royal Overseas League.

The inquiry before Lady Smith in Edinburgh will continue tomorrow.