LEADING charities have claimed that children in Scotland have been subjected to ritual abuse, including rape, murder and even the production of so-called "snuff films".

Campaigners say the sadistic abuse has been carried out by paedophile networks and "cults", with many victims who come forward facing scepticism and disbelief.

Although many of the incidents are understood to have taken place many years ago, it is believed that a number of ritual abuse rings are still operating today.

The claims came as rep-orts suggested the Scottish Government was looking into setting up a public inquiry into historical child abuse, with talks said to be centred on the remit and timing of such an investigation.

Kate Short, founder of charity Break the Silence, said the depravity experienced by some of her clients - who are now aged 30 to 55 -was unbelievable.

She added: "In the worst cases they have been forced to watch the making of snuff movies. It's the extreme, barbaric type of terror that can lead to ­serious personal disorder.

"Sadly many of these victims lack the confidence to engage the authorities because they think no-one will believe them."

The shock claims were backed by another abuse charity, Izzy's Promise, whose project coordinator Joseph Lumbasi described having to deal with people who have been involved in gang rape ceremonies and animal slaughters.

He said: "Their recollections of what has taken place, when and where are muddled. But it is happening here, in Scotland, as we speak and must be exposed."

Education Secretary Michael Russell will address Holyrood on child protection this week, but is not expected to announce plans for an imminent inquiry.

However, it is understood that ministers and officials are working to set up a historical abuse inquiry.

Police Scotland said it takes all allegations of abuse "incredibly seriously".