VICTIMS of the “one of the greatest healthcare-related tragedies in this country” had private talks with the First Minister and Health Secretary yesterday to discuss compensation and future support for hundreds of Scots caught up in the blood contamination scandal.

Nicola Sturgeon and Shona Robison plan to set up an expert group, which includes victims’ representatives from the Scottish Infected Blood Forum and Haemophilia Scotland as part of a review to look at providing financial help for those affected.

After the meeting at the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon issued an unreserved apology and pledged her “absolute determination” to do everything she could to deliver justice for those who contracted hepatitis C and HIV as a result of being given infected blood and blood products on the NHS in the 1970s and 1980s.

Robison described infections caused by blood transfusions as “one of the greatest healthcare-related tragedies in this country”.

During their earlier meeting, a date was set for the conclusion of the review by April next year but victims hope it will be much sooner as they have already had to wait six years for the 1,800-page report into the Penrose Inquiry to be published, which they say was nothing but a “whitewash”.

Scottish Infected Blood Forum convener Philip Dolan MBE, a haemophilia sufferer who found out in 1991 that he had contracted hepatitis C, said: “When we met with the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary, the noises were very positive and they appeared supportive.

“The reference group that is being set up will have representatives from the Forum and Haemophilia Scotland and it is to look at how financial arrangements and other support to people can be reached.

“I hope officials will be making contact with us within the next couple of weeks because we are nearing a General Election and I would hope this group would be set up quickly.”

Patrick McGuire, a partner with Thompsons Solicitors, whose legal team represent many of the victims and their families, said Robison has shown her commitment to “fully engage” with them.

However, he called on the government to set up a compensation scheme totally separate to the UK Government.

McGuire said: “It is my view and the view of many of the victims that the current scheme run by the UK Government is completely inadequate. 

“We need a new scheme set up in Scotland run by the Scottish Government. 

“The Irish Government has set-up a very successful compensation scheme for victims there and we would urge Shona Robison to look closely at it. 

“What we need less of is the gesture politics of David Cameron and his promised £25 million but rather a humane set up that treats every case individually and offers an appropriate settlement tailored to each victim.”

It is estimated that nearly 3,000 people in Scotland were infected with hepatitis C and 78 people contracted HIV more than 30 years ago after the authorities failed to screen blood supplies and blood products for the potentially fatal viruses. Around 200 of those affected have since died.

Victims and families reacted angrily to the findings of the inquiry, conducted by the former judge Lord Penrose. He concluded little could have been done differently and made only one recommendation: that anyone in Scotland who had a blood transfusion before 1991 should be tested for hepatitis C.

There were shouts of “whitewash” and protesters burned the report as it was unveiled at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Robison told the parliament she understood the anger of many of those affected by the scandal.

She said: “I am very aware that, for many, the outcome of the inquiry did not meet their expectations.”

The minister told MSPs she fully accepted the recommendation on carrying out further testing of patients.

She stressed that “our current blood safety record is safe, the blood supply is as safe as it can be”.

Robison spoke of the need to improve financial support for those victims and their families.

The UK Government health minister Jane Ellison insisted another inquiry into the scandal would not be in the best interests of victims and their families.