Education Secretary John Swinney.
Survivors of historical child abuse have said a meeting with John Swinney will have a “major impact” on whether they continue to engage with Scotland’s crisis-hit national inquiry. Campaigners will meet the education secretary today to make a series of demands about the remit of the inquiry and the financial redress on offer. The Scottish Government last month appointed senior judge Lady Smith to lead the inquiry following the resignation of the previous chairwoman, Susan O’Brien QC. The national inquiry is investigating the abuse of children in care going back decades. But it has been mired in controversy, with survivors saying they have “lost confidence” in the government’s handling. Mr Swinney has already agreed to look at extending the remit of the inquiry, but survivors said the education secretary still had work to do to win over doubters.
Alan Draper, parliamentary liaison officer for In-Care Abuse Survivors, said:
“We feel that the outcome of the discussion will have a major impact on the attitude of survivors in considering if they wish to be involved in the inquiry. “Survivors have lost confidence in government and it is important that every effort is made to restore that confidence. We should never lose sight of the level of suffering that so many have suffered. They seek justice, accountability and redress, and the government has a major responsibility to ensure that survivors achieve those objectives. Survivors can not be failed again.”
Survivors plan to push Mr Swinney to extend the remit of the inquiry to all organisations which had a “duty of care”, such as the Catholic Church and the Scout Association. They also want the Scottish Government to enter into discussions about providing compensation to pre-1964 survivors, who will be unable to bring civil cases in the courts even if a time-bar is lifted for such actions. The campaigners also want the government to review the “purpose and value” of a support scheme for survivors.
Mr Swinney said:
“This meeting is the latest opportunity for me to listen to survivors and I am grateful for their willingness to continue to discuss not just the inquiry, but the progress of our expanded support service and preparation of legislation to remove the time bar to survivors seeking civil redress. Scotland is one of the only countries in the world to have a dedicated support service for survivors and, as we expand it further with £13.5 million over five years, survivors have a hugely important role in helping us ensure there is consistency across the country and truly delivers what is needed. I hope all of the individual and groups of survivors who have played such a vital part in reaching this point will continue to work with us and will encourage others to come forward and access the full support available.”