Speaking during the first public session of the inquiry, Susan O’Brien QC said her team faced a “huge and daunting” task and were willing to travel as far afield as Australia and Canada to speak to those abused while in care in Scotland.
She said the inquiry would be “complex” and “expensive” and admitted she had “no idea” how many survivors of abuse would come forward.
The inquiry, which began its work in October, has so far received a mixed response from survivors, many of whom are angry its remit only extends to the abuse of children in care and not alleged abuse carried out by organisations such as the Catholic Church and the Scouts.
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Addressing the media and survivors at a Glasgow hotel, Ms O’Brien said: “The inquiry calls on survivors of abuse to step forward and be heard. Our priority is to listen to people who were abused when they were children. If you are one of those children, please help us.
“Where lessons can be learned, we will make recommendations for the future. Some children will always end up in the care of the state. Our aim must be to make them safe. This inquiry is not just for survivors of abuse in the past – it is also for some Scottish children yet to be born.”
Around 290 organisations have already been identified which may hold documents relevant to the inquiry, Ms O’Brien said.
Speaking after the meeting, Alan Draper, a spokesman for In-Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said: “The fact that we have got this far is positive, but we are still concerned about accountability – there’s a lack of clarity about that.”
But James McDermott, 60, who said he had been abused by priests at Fort Augustus Abbey in the 1960s, described the inquiry as a “propaganda exercise”.
He said: “My abusers ripped my childhood out of me and gave me a life of hell. I won’t get justice through this inquiry.”