Ministers who resisted abuse inquiry calls ‘not trying to cover things up’

Ministers were not trying to “cover things up” when they previously resisted calls for an inquiry into the physical and sexual abuse of children in care, former first minister Jack McConnell has said.

Jack McConnell was giving evidence to the inquiry
Jack McConnell was giving evidence to the inquiry

Speaking at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, Lord McConnell, who was first minister between 2001 to 2007, said any decisions made were “trying to do the right things by survivors, and by those who might go into care in the future”.

Lord McConnell said: “The core decision was about trying to do the right thing – not to impress the public, or the parliament, or to cover things up. I think the majority of people involved were trying to achieve the right outcome.”

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

Lord McConnell said: “I was very clear from the first conversation that there would be an apology.

“I wanted to ensure the timing and delivery were appropriate."

James Peoples QC, senior counsel to the inquiry, asked: “Was the advice from the lawyers not to use the word apology, as it could have legal liability?”

He said the Lord Advocate warned that by issuing an apology it could have relinquished the Catholic Church from any legal responsibility, as the Scottish Government could be seen to have accepted full responsibility.