Fears over future of historic child abuse inquiry

Key announcement regarding the inquiry will now be made after the general election. Picture: TSPL

Key announcement regarding the inquiry will now be made after the general election. Picture: TSPL

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SURVIVORS of historical child abuse have expressed concerns about the future of a long-awaited public inquiry after the Scottish Government postponed a key announcement on its chairperson.

Education secretary Angela Constance had been expected to name the chair and outline the remit of the inquiry in a statement to parliament next week.

Our worry is that there are concerns about the remit of the inquiry and the government doesn’t want bad news coming out

Alan Draper

But The Scotsman has learned the announcement has now been put off until after the general election, raising fears among campaigners that the scope of the inquiry is to be reduced.

The Scottish Government announced the inquiry in December, which will have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.

Alan Draper, the parliamentary liaison officer of In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said some survivors were concerned the delay to Ms Constance’s statement was due to the unpopular decision to limit the remit of the inquiry.

He said: “There may be good reasons for [the delay]. It’s been presented to us that it’s to do with the election, but they’ve known about the date of the election for five years. I don’t see that as a good reason.

“If the delay is due to appointing a chair, then they have to come forward and say so.

“Our worry is that there are concerns about the remit of the inquiry and the government doesn’t want bad news coming out before the election, upsetting survivors.”

Allegations of historical abuse have been made by former pupils at the Roman Catholic Fort Augustus School on the banks of Loch Ness. Other claims have been made by those who used to attend Nazareth House in Aberdeen and Larchgrove boys’ home in Glasgow.

Labour MSP Graeme Pearson said: “I’m disappointed because the survivors have waited very patiently and co-operated in a constructive fashion with officials and the minister.

“The home secretary [Theresa May] went through a torrid time in setting up an inquiry and a cynic might think the government seeks to avoid that before the election, but I have told the survivors to accept what’s been said in good faith and hope we get a quality public inquiry after the election.”

Lib Dem education and young person spokesman Liam McArthur added: “It is important that this is now progressed as quickly as possible.

“We need to be assured that this delay will enhance the prospect of achieving justice for survivors and securing the answers they are seeking.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ministers are considering the wide range of views and issues and expect to announce the terms of reference and chair, subject to the agreement of parliament, next month.

“Clearly it is in no-one’s interests – not least those of survivors who have campaigned so hard – for any decision to be hurried on such important matters. It is essential that they are made thoroughly and with all the relevant information to hand – the experience of the UK government in similar issues bears this out.”

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