Specialist support and counselling is to be set up to help families affected by historical forced adoption.

The Scottish Government has pledged funding of around £145,000 to help women who were forced to give up their children, as well as the fathers and children involved in the distressing practice.

Peer support groups will also be established and research commissioned to look at how existing support can be improved.

The move comes as a fresh appeal is made for those affected by the process to share their experiences on a dedicated government webpage and questionnaire.

Children’s minister Clare Haughey said: “Tragically, in the past there were practices which resulted in some women feeling forced to give up their children. I offer my sincere sympathies to all those whose lives were profoundly changed as a result.

“Our webpage and questionnaire was set up six weeks ago so those affected by this heart-breaking issue could share their views and insights. Since then, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters have come forward to give moving accounts of their experiences.

“I do not underestimate how painful this may have been and the courage it must have taken. I’d like to thank all those who have contributed so far.

“I would respectfully encourage those who have not yet given their views to do so, if they feel able. Their feedback will help us to understand what action is needed to help these families now and in the future.

“In the meantime, we will start the process of establishing specialist support and peer support groups as we continue to explore next steps.”

An estimated 60,000 mothers in Scotland had babies adopted between the 1950s and early 1980s because they were unmarried.

Many were denied access to housing and social benefits which may have allowed them to keep their children.

In recent years there have been growing calls for governments to publicly apologise for forced adoption practices, with Australia being the first country to do so in 2013.

Last year, Labour MSP Monica Lennon called on the Scottish Government to say sorry on behalf of the nation.

A formal apology has not yet been issued, but the government said its questionnaire would allow people to share their “views and insight”.

Jeannot Farmer, of the Movement for an Adoption Apology, said: “We are encouraged to hear that the Scottish Government has listened to our views and recognised the need for support services, including peer support, for those affected by historic adoption practices.”

The historical adoption webpage and questionnaire will be open to responses until April 20.

Mental health charity Health in Mind is offering a helpline for those considering taking part in the survey, with call handlers trained in the impact of trauma.