AFTER six agonising years and £12 million of public money, the momentous unveiling of the Penrose Inquiry report into the contaminated blood scandal was supposed to give hundreds of Scots victims answers to why their lives and their families had been destroyed but it was nothing more than a “whitewash”.

Around 300 of the 500 Scottish victims, most of whom were haemophiliac patients, were given blood infected with deadly viruses HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C by the NHS in the 1970s and 1980s, and are now dead after decades of searching for the truth.

Former High Court judge Lord Penrose produced an 1,800-page report after hearing evidence from just six victims out of 60 witnesses but he only came up with one recommendation which should have been done years ago.

Lord Penrose’s sole recommendation was that people who had blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s and before 1991 should be tested for hepatitis C.

There was only one wish which was granted yesterday for the victims and that was an unreserved apology from Prime Minister David Cameron and the Scottish Government for the horrendous NHS failings.

The lack of action so incensed victims and their families that they set fire to the report and shouted “whitewash” outside the National Museum in Edinburgh yesterday where they had stood patiently awaiting the historic unveiling in the vain hope of finally getting some answers.

Another finding in his report also stated the obvious that more should have been done to screen blood and donors for hepatitis C in the early 1990s, and that the collection of blood from prisoners should have stopped sooner.

Lord Penrose is seriously ill in hospital and was not present at the event, which opened with a minute’s silence for those who had been affected and lost their lives.

A statement was read out on his behalf by inquiry secretary Maria McCann, who said patients in the late 1980s had been “confronted with the reality that what had been presented as a treatment to extend life and improve its quality carried a risk of serious and potentially fatal disease”.

She said: “The resultant distress, anger and distrust were clearly demonstrated to the inquiry.”

The inquiry also found that there were “few aspects in which matters could or should have been handled differently” and said the inquiry had to take into account the conditions that had prevailed at the time rather than judge by today’s standards.

During his lengthy inquiry Lord Penrose studied more than 13,000 pages of transcript, in addition to 200 witness statements and 120,000 documents.

The contaminated blood scandal has been described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS, and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people who didn’t find out for many years that they had been contaminated with deadly viruses.

Bill Wright of charity Haemophilia Scotland, who was among those infected, said he was “raging too” when he read the report but insisted it was “by no means the end of the story”.

They called for an apology and they got one during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday when Cameroon said: “To each and every one of those people I would like to say sorry on behalf of the Government for something that should not have happened.

“While it will be for the next government to take account of these findings, it is right that we use this moment to recognise the pain and the suffering experienced by people as a result of this tragedy. It is difficult to imagine the feelings of unfairness that people must feel at being infected with hepatitis C and HIV as a result of a totally unrelated treatment within the NHS.”

Health Minister Shona Robison was quick to say sorry to the hundreds still suffering in a personal address and promised that the First Minister would “confirm that apology on behalf of the NHS and Government in Scotland in Parliament” today. The inquiry was announced by Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister and then health minister, in the Scottish Parliament back in April 2008.

She said at the time: “No one can undo the pain and suffering of those affected. But they do have a right to a deeper explanation of how hepatitis C and HIV came to be transmitted through NHS treatment.”

Everything you need to know about the Penrose Inquiry

Q: Why was the Penrose Inquiry held? A: In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of people in Scotland, including haemophilia patients, were infected with Hepatitis C after receiving NHS treatment with contaminated blood products. Some were also infected with HIV. At its most simple level, the inquiry was to look at what went wrong and what lessons could be learned to prevent such a tragedy occurring again.

Q: How many people were infected? A: The inquiry is expected to shed more light on how many people were infected. Estimates in Scotland range from 351 to 532, according to the charity Haemophilia Scotland. Of these at least 71 were also infected with HIV. The charity estimates that fewer than 200 of those infected with Hepatitis C are alive today and that fewer than than 20 of those with HIV have survived. Campaign groups fear that at least 5,000 people across the UK were infected with contaminated blood, 2,000 of whom have died so far.

Q: Who established the inquiry and when? A: It was set up by Scottish Ministers under the Inquiries Act and was announced by the then Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament on April 23 2008. It formally got under way almost a year later, on March 31 2009.

Q: Who led the inquiry? A: The Right Honourable Lord Penrose chaired the inquiry. He was appointed as a Court of Session Judge in 1990 and retired in 2005. He previously conducted a public inquiry into the Equitable Life Assurance Society, which published its report in 2004.

Q: What happens next? A: The findings, which run to many volumes, were unveiled yesterday in Edinburgh at a press conference attended by many victims and campaigners. Both the Scottish and UK governments have issued responses to the findings. Campaigners now want victims to receive an apology from the authorities and full financial compensation for the suffering and financial hardship caused by infections contracted through blood products.

TIMELINE 1960s-1990s: People with haemophilia were infected with hepatitis through NHS blood transfusions. Most were not told until the mid-1990s. 1975: David Owen , then UK Health Minister, planned blood-screening. Then he moved to the Foreign Office and the idea was scrapped. Early 1980s-1999: Of the 4,000 people with haemophilia, 1,300 find out they are infected with HIV from blood products. December 1999: A motion signed by 80 MSPs asked the Scottish Government to hold an internal inquiry. Then Scottish Health minister Susan Deacon sets up a probe, later dismissed by the health committee. April 2006: Holyrood’s health committee votes for an independent public inquiry. The committee stands by its decision despite a request from health Minister Andy Kerr to reverse it. The SNP pledges a judicial inquiry in its election manifesto. April 2007: Nicola Sturgeon announces the setting up of a public inquiry, and Lord Penrose is appointed in 2010. March 25, 2015: The final report of the Penrose Inquiry is published.