THE Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, which has already run for five years and cost £35m, could last more than a decade, it has emerged.
The Scottish Government has issued a £4.5million tender notice for the transcription of all its hearings until February 2025, with a possible extension to February 2026.
When the inquiry was established in October 2015 it was expected to report “within four years”, and held its first hearing in May 2017.
However by June 2018 the chair, judge Lady Smith, had asked for the reporting timetable to be changed to “as soon as reasonably practicable”, given the volume of evidence.
The inquiry is investigating the abuse of children in care up to 2014, including the nature of the abuse, the failure of those responsible to protect them, and will recommend changes.
It covers the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in residential care as well as of those being cared for who were abused outside a home, for example at community clubs.
It has already looked at care homes and schools run by female and male religious orders, as well as the charities Barnardo’s, Quarriers and the Aberlour Child Care Trust.
It is currently examining the abuse suffered by Scottish children put into migration programmes, mostly to Australia, Canada and Zimbabwe.
Future work will cover council homes and secure units, foster care, children’s hospitals, young offenders’ institutions, and private boarding schools, including Gordonstoun, Fettes College, Loretto School, Merchiston Castle and Morrison’s Academy.
Lady Smith is producing interim reports on each theme, or “case study”, as the inquiry goes along, rather than waiting until the end of all the evidence to produce a single report.
However a ten-year timescale would still mean one of more groups of survivors waiting that long before their case study report was issued.
The total cost of the probe had reached £35,364,565 by the end of June, with costs rising by more than £1m a month over the previous year.
If the inquiry ran to February 2026 at the same rate it would cost £100m.
The new tender says Scottish ministers need a verbatim service to provide a “real-time transcript” to the Inquiry panel and others during in- person and online hearings.
Under “duration”, it states the contract would run from March 2021 to February 2025, adding: “The contract allows for an extension for up to an additional 12 months between 1st March 2025 to 28 February 2026.”
Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said: “This inquiry has a wide reaching remit on the most harrowing of subjects and must be allowed to deliver the results that those abused in care need and deserve.
“While there will understandably be frustrations if this takes longer than expected, we need to ensure that the inquiry fulfils all its obligations.
“It is apparent that even since the introduction of this inquiry back in 2015, that more revelations will have been uncovered and these on-going reports must continue to be as transparent as possible.”
A spokesperson from the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry said: “At the core of the Inquiry’s work is the investigation of the abuse of children in care.
“We understand how painful and distressing it can be for individuals to talk about their experiences and a trauma-informed approach is central to every stage of the Inquiry’s processes.
“It is of the utmost importance that the Inquiry is given the time to investigate its wide ranging remit both carefully and thoroughly.
“The Inquiry is currently undertaking investigations into over 100 individual establishments.
“Case studies examining boarding schools and foster care are planned for 2021 and hearings relating to the child migration case study will resume on 15 September 2020 following a pause due to the Covid pandemic.
“Lady Smith has given an undertaking to publish interim findings throughout our investigative process. To date interim findings have been published for three case studies, with further findings expected before the end of the year.
“It should not be assumed there is a direct correlation between the length of a contract and the Inquiry’s timescale.
“As the important work of the Inquiry continues, we would encourage anyone who has relevant information to get in touch.”
In July, deputy First Minister John Swinney announced more than 400 people had accepted advance payments of £10,000 under a Government scheme for historical abuse survivors.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As the inquiry have made clear, it is standard procedure for a contract of this type to run for a set period – and it is wholly wrong to assume that’s how long the inquiry expects to continue.”
The Inquiry encourages anyone who has relevant information to get in touch.