An update on work at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry including publication of findings on Scottish Government evidence

On 29 September 2021, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its sixth set of case study findings, this time on evidence heard between 17 November and 4 December 2020 relating to Scottish Government and, in particular, the 13 year delay in the setting up of a child abuse inquiry in Scotland after a petition calling for such an inquiry was submitted to the Scottish Parliament. The findings describe this delay as “woeful and wholly avoidable”, adding that “Scottish Government failed to grasp the fundamental importance that survivors appropriately and justifiably attached to their need for justice, accountability and redress.” The delay between the submission of the petition in 2002 and the decision at the end of 2014 to hold an inquiry is found to have been caused by a variety of factors including “some ineptitude”, “some confusion on the part of ministers and officials”, “officials controlling the process up to the point of trying to prevent there being an inquiry” and “both ministers and officials failing to listen to and engage with survivors”. A link to these findings is here. The current Scottish Government has responded to these findings by apologising “unreservedly that it did not respond more appropriately and sooner to the concerns of survivors of abuse in care who called for a public inquiry”, also noting that “Responding to survivors of abuse in care spanned different administrations between 2002 and 2014.”

Also on case study findings and as confirmed in an autumn 2021 SCAI newsletter, here, SCAI will shortly publish a seventh set, with this set on institutions run by the Marists.

In other news, SCAI has moved to new premises at Mint House, 20 West Register Street, Edinburgh where it will hear further evidence on boarding schools from 6 October 2021. SCAI last sat to hear evidence in May 2021 when the focus was on boarding school provision at Loretto School in Musselburgh and Morrison’s Academy in Crieff. Evidence from 6 October will relate to Gordonstoun School in Elgin, Queen Victoria School in Dunblane, Keil School in Dumbarton, Fettes College in Edinburgh and Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh.

SCAI hopes to start hearing evidence as part of a foster care case study in spring 2022, including on children who were boarded out as well as children who were placed in foster care by a Scottish local authority. It remains to be seen whether any more case studies will follow after the foster care one. SCAI previously confirmed investigations into 4 young offender institutions, 3 local authority establishments and 3 further schools but has not yet confirmed whether evidence will be heard in public on any of those.

SCAI was established as a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 on 1 October 2015 with an overall aim of raising public awareness of the abuse of children in care (under 18) for the period “within living memory” of any person who suffered such abuse to no later than 17 December 2014. SCAI’s work will conclude with a report to Scottish Ministers. This report was originally to be delivered by October 2019 but the deadline for it was extended before the COVID-19 pandemic to “as soon as reasonably practicable” after then.

SCAI publishes a running total of its costs quarterly. SCAI’s total cost from 1 October 2015 to 30 June 2021 was £46,874,090. Updated expenditure should be published around 15 October 2021.


Frank Hughes, Partner and Fiona McEwan, Associate at BLM

frank.hughes@blmlaw.com / fiona.mcewan@blmlaw.com

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