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Survivors group praises church for decision to release maltreatment claim figures in Scotland

A Catholic abuse survivors' group has praised the Church's groundbreaking decision to reveal full sets of figures relating to maltreatment claims against priests and members of religious orders in Scotland.

The measure to publish annual and historic figures emerged in a letter by the Bishops' Conference of Scotland which was read out at masses across the country.

It includes the publication of figures relating to complaints made against priests, nuns and monks dating back to 2006 and a statistical review of historic cases from 1947 to 2005. Helen Holland, chairwoman of In Care Abuse Survivors, said that the development, which begins today, would be a major step towards making the Catholic Church more transparent about its past and in the future.

Ms Holland, 55, who spent part of her childhood in Nazareth House in Kilmarnock, a home run by the Sisters of Nazareth order, said: "It is clearly a move towards being more open and transparent and that must be a good thing.

"I hope they will build on this development and acknowledge the abuse that has been carried out in the past."

The Church also revealed yesterday a review of church protocols regarding children and vulnerable adults would be carried out by Dr Andrew McLellan.

He is a former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and former chief inspector of Scotland's prisons.

Data on abuse complaints will also be published annually from next year.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland described the measures as the biggest developments in church policy with regard to abuse for decades.

"This is a very, very significant step which is intended to underscore the Church's ongoing commitment to safeguarding the vulnerable but also subject the work the Church does to general scrutiny" he said.

"I would say this is the most significant announcement that has been made in terms of safeguarding for decades."

He added: "In the first instance the historic review will be statistical, showing type of complaint, when and location.

"Arising from that there will be a review of cases, so if it is found that cases need to be revisited, that will be done."

Background work into today's announcements began in 2011 but was suspended when Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who stepped down earlier this year, withdrew his support.

His successor as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh Leo Cushley indicated the Archdiocese of Edinburgh would co-operate fully with the exercise.

Other members of the ­survivors' group were more ­reluctant to give their support.

Frank Docherty, 69, of East Kilbride, who spent part of his childhood at Smyllum Park, a home run by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, in Lanark, described it as "a publicity exercise".

Over the last decade or so the Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of abuse allegations.

In August, Hugh Gilbert, Bishop of Aberdeen, made a public apology after allegations of abuse emerged at Fort ­Augustus boarding school in the Highlands.

He said: "We are anxious … that all that can be done should be done for victims."

Separately, a confidential file of letters from Scottish bishops detailing more than 20 secret abuse cases has been handed to police by a former safeguarding adviser to the Catholic church.

The letters, dating back to 1995, include every Scottish diocese. The Church said it would co-operate fully with the police.

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