Separate Scottish sex abuse inquiry to be retained

SCOTTISH ministers have rejected proposals from MPs to extend the scope of a UK government-backed child sexual abuse inquiry to cover Scotland as well as England and Wales.

A committee of MPs has branded the claims 'ludicrous'. Picture: PA
A committee of MPs has branded the claims 'ludicrous'. Picture: PA
A committee of MPs has branded the claims 'ludicrous'. Picture: PA

Westminster’s home affairs committee, said an independent, panel-led inquiry set up by Home Secretary Theresa May to examine abuse in England and Wales should also include Scotland and Northern Ireland to “avoid gaps” between investigations in different parts of the UK.

The Scottish Government has already announced its own plans for a statutory public inquiry to examine historical cases of abuse of children in care north of the border, where child protection is devolved to Holyrood.

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Ministers today rejected the call from MPs to extend the influence and authority of the inquiry ordered by the Home Secretary, which a Scottish government spokeswoman said was a “primarily a matter for the UK Government”.

Education Angela Constance told MSPs last year that a dedicated inquiry for Scotland would be given the power to compel witnesses to appear and give evidence, with the full remit and appointments for the inquiry confirmed by the end of April 2015.

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A separate historical abuse inquiry has also been launched in Northern Ireland, including claims of abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast in the 1970s,

The Home Affairs Committee report said the main inquiry ordered by the Home Secretary, must consult with the separate inquiries in Scotland and Northern Ireland “to avoid gaps between the areas covered by the various inquiries”.

The report raised concerns that the powers of compulsion of the Northern Ireland panel did not extend to the UK government, after members of Northern Ireland’s assembly concluded last year that the claims could only be adequately investigated by a Westminster-led UK inquiry

It said this “calls into doubt whether it will be able to deal effectively with allegations of the possible involvement of UK government agencies in the abuse”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the Scottish government would cooperate with the UK authorities in investigating abuse, but rejected the recommendation of MPs to extend the remit of the inquiry.

The spokeswoman said “The cabinet secretary for Education announced in December that a statutory public inquiry will be held to examine historical cases of abuse of children in care in Scotland. “

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“We have not yet read the select committee report but clearly the remit and scope of the inquiry announced by the Home Secretary is primarily a matter for the UK Government.

“However, as the cabinet secretary said in December, while it is appropriate that we in Scotland have our national public statutory inquiry to look at any failings which occurred here, child abuse has no borders, so we will continue to have discussions and share information and experiences, as appropriate, with colleagues in other jurisdictions.”

Campaigners warned that extending the influence of the UK government-backed inquiry would “dilute” the investigation of abuse in Scotland.

Frank Doherty, the founder of INCAS (In Care Abuse Survivors), said: “We’ve fought for 15 years to get this inquiry relating to Scottish institutions and Scottish law.

“A UK-wide inquiry covering Scotland would be too big and things would get diluted.”