Thousands of Scottish victims of the infected blood scandal will receive £100,000 by the end of the month, the UK Government has announced.
Patients who were infected with Hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970 and 80s will get the interim compensation payments. If the patient has died, their partner will receive the cash instead.
Survivors and bereaved partners will receive letters this week confirming the money will be sent to them in the following 10 days, according to the Cabinet Office.
It comes after a report published in July by infected blood inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff said the payments should be made “without delay”.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Nadhim Zahawi said: “I know from my own discussions with constituents who are victims of the infected blood scandal just how traumatic their heart-breaking experiences have been and I was proud to campaign as an MP on their behalf and continue that work as a government minister.
“No level of compensation will ever make up for the appalling treatment and circumstances that those affected by this scandal and their families have had to endure, but I hope that these interim payments go some way to demonstrate that we are, and always will be, on their side.”
The payments will not be subject to any tax or national insurance deductions, neither will they affect any financial benefits support being received.
It is estimated about 3,000 people in Scotland were infected with Hepatitis C through NHS blood or blood products in the 1970s through to 1991. Some were also infected with HIV in the early 1980s.
Infections were not just confined to Scotland, with people across the UK and around the world falling victim.
The total bill to the taxpayer for the initial payments to victims is expected to reach around £400m for the whole UK, and the government is set to respond to any further recommendations made by the inquiry when it concludes next year.
Maree Todd, Scotland’s public health minister, welcomed the Cabinet Office announcement.
She said: “We recognise how important the issue of interim payments has been for Scottish Infected Blood Support Scheme (SIBSS) members, and those in the other UK support schemes, who have suffered for so long,” the Holyrood minister said.
“The interim compensation payments will build on the support already provided by SIBSS to many of those affected by this tragedy.”
The health minister added: “Existing SIBSS beneficiaries – both infected beneficiaries and widows, widowers or long-term partners of an infected beneficiary who has died – will receive an interim payment of £100,000 on October 28 and should have received or will shortly receive a letter from SIBSS setting out details.
“These one-off interim payments are being administered by the Scottish Ministers in conjunction with NHS National Services Scotland on behalf of the UK Government.”
The infected blood inquiry, which was announced by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2017 and began the following year, has taken evidence from more than 5,000 witnesses during hearings across all four nations of the UK.
It has featured harrowing evidence from patients and their families who described being kept in the dark about the risk of HIV infection among haemophiliac patients, having to keep their diagnoses private through fear of vilification at the time of the Aids crisis, and living with the physical effects of HIV.
Most of those involved had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia and relied on regular injections of the US product Factor VIII to survive.
They were unaware they were receiving contaminated product from people who were paid to donate, including prisoners and drug addicts.
Patients were injected for years despite repeated warnings at the top of government and some victims were infected after receiving blood transfusions.
Across the UK new cases of HIV and hepatitis continued to be diagnosed decades after the first contaminations, resulting in many early deaths.