Alex Salmond 'among figures against holding child abuse inquiry', claims John Swinney

Former first minister Alex Salmond and other influential figures in the Scottish Government were against holding an inquiry into the abuse of children in care, John Swinney has said.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA WireDeputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire
Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire

Speaking at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry on Friday, the Deputy First Minister said there was clear division between ministers on the decision to hold a public investigation.

He said an inquiry was authorised "after the change of First Minister had taken place".

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James Peoples QC, senior counsel to the inquiry, said that on Thursday Mike Russell told him "influential figures, including Mr Salmond, Kenny MacAskill and the-then lord advocate Frank Mulholland, were not persuaded" of the need for an inquiry.

Mr Swinney agreed, saying: "In 2014, there was a difference of views in Cabinet in the summer of 2014 if there should be an inquiry."

Mr Peoples said: "Mike Russell described it as 'quite robust'.

"He said one school of thought was that the time taken, the cost involved, didn't support the need for a public inquiry.

"Whereas Mike Russell was putting forward another view of what do survivors want?"

Mr Swinney responded: "There was a perfectly respectable debate among Cabinet, but there were two opinions.

"One argument was that the inquiry would not address the issues and would not deliver the outcomes survivors hoped for.

"Mike Russell had engaged heavily with survivors and his view was we had to confront this issue as a country, to do justice for survivors to enable them to have their experiences documented, understood and reflected on, and for the state to accept responsibility for what happened to them.

"I supported him in that view in Cabinet.

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"The inquiry was authorised in December after the change of First Minister had taken place.

"Without a doubt, there was a division of views in Cabinet."

Mr Swinney also said the cost of an inquiry would not have been a deterrent, saying: "I've seen a lot of traffic about money in the papers and I was finance minister for nine years, so I controlled that money.

"Ironically, in the period after 2007, the financial issues were a lot less than in early 2014.

"When I came to office in 2007, I was pleasantly surprised there was £1.6 billion in an account in the treasury that hadn't been spent.

"When I was going through the accounts in 2006 and saw that, I thought that would be quite handy to have that.

"We still had the block grant and there was £1.6bn that had not been spent, which I found quite surprising."

Mr Peoples asked: "Although you weren't approached about finding money for an inquiry, there was money there?"

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Mr Swinney said: "There was a hidden money tree at that point. So the idea that money was an issue - I had the ability to fund the financial priorities my colleagues found to be important."

The latest phase of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, heard before judge Lady Smith, is exploring reasons why calls between August 2002 and December 2014 for a public inquiry to be held were resisted by ministers.

The current inquiry was set up in October 2015.

It is investigating abuse of children in care in Scotland or where their care was arranged in Scotland.

The inquiry continues.