A long-standing time bar which prevented victims of childhood abuse seeking civil legal action has been lifted.
Survivors of abuse which happened after 1964 previously only had a three-year window to pursue damages.
New laws coming into force have now changed that.
Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing said the time bar was “against the interests of justice for those who’d survived abuse”.
The three-year limit has been removed by the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Bill.
It allows the time bar to be lifted so long as the victim was a child under the age of 18 when they suffered sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
The pursuer must also be the person who has been abused – so relatives of victims who have since died will not be able to seek damages.
The individual responsible for carrying out the abuse can be sued directly, but damages can also be sought against employers for their current or former employees.
The new law applies to anyone who suffered abuse on or after 26 September 1964, but not to victims who were abused before that date.
The Scottish government has estimated a potential 2,200 victims will be affected by the change in the law.
An independent Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry into historical child abuse is currently under way, led by judge Lady Smith.
More than 60 institutions, including several top private schools and church bodies, are being investigated.
‘Courage of survivors’
Annabelle Ewing added: “Child abuse is the most horrific betrayal of our young people and, even where such crimes were committed decades ago, we will do all we can to help survivors get the justice they deserve.
“Police Scotland and the Crown continue to work tirelessly to bring perpetrators to justice through our criminal courts.
“And, while it may not be the right way forward for all, survivors may now be considering the option of accessing justice through the civil courts.
“This legal milestone would not have happened but for the courage of many adult survivors whose persistence and dedication have shone a light on the dark realities of child abuse.”
Joanne McMeeking, from the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (Celcis) at the University of Strathclyde, welcomed the introduction of the Act.
She said: “The abolishment of the time bar is the result of many years of successful campaigning by survivors.
“It is a welcome addition to the package of effective reparation as outlined in the Action Plan on Justice for victims of Historic Abuse of Children in Care.”[codepeople-post-map cat=”38”]