A LEADING academic has criticised Scottish Government "interference" as he resigned from an historic child abuse inquiry.

Professor Michael Lamb said he was stepping down "with deep regret" from the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, where he was a panel member, saying that it had "become increasingly clear over the last nine months that the Panel cannot act independently" and that the Scottish Government "intends to continue interfering in ways large and small, directly and indirectly".

HeraldScotland: Professor LambProfessor Lamb

Prof Lamb, of Cambridge University, tendered his resignation today in a letter to Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

He stated: "Continuing interference threatens to prevent the Inquiry from investigating thoroughly and taking robust evidence of the highest quality.

"To be worthwhile, the Inquiry must ask fearlessly about what happened to children in care, who and what institutions failed in their duties of care at the time and subsequently, how the affected individuals can ‘be made whole,’ and how we can ensure that such unconscionable events never happen again.

"Crucially, its factfinding should not be constrained or micro-managed by one of the bodies whose actions or failures to act may ultimately be criticised."

Prof Lamb said the inquiry was "doomed before the first witness has been heard" as a result of factors including prolonged delays or blocks on the appointment of crucial staff by ministers, as well as Scottish Government officials having "questioned the decisions made by the supposedly independent Inquiry".

The inquiry was set up to focus on allegations of historic abuse in formal institutional care settings, such as children's homes and foster care.

Survivors of abuse said they were shocked and saddened by the development, and urged the Scottish Government to allow the inquiry to proceed with total transparency and independence.

Helen Holland, of child abuse survivors group Incas, has been supporting some elderly and inform survivors - some in their 80s - to prepare statements and testimoney ahead of the inquiry. 

She said: "I'm absolutely furious because at the end of the day, it's a blatant betrayal.

"How can you say something is going to be transparent and independent of government - Angela Constance has said that on several occasions over the last nine months - and here we clearly see, from a panel member, that they have been obstructed from doing what they need to do.

"The only logical conclusion you can draw from that is that the Government do not want to be held accountable for what happened."

"I take my hat off to Professor Lamb - he's obviously a man of integrity and of conscience.

"The fact that he has chosen to do this prior to any survivor giving testimony in the public inquiry, to me that speaks volumes. To me, that's a man with compassion for what people have already been through. 

"The Government interference clearly shows they have no compassion whatsoever."

HeraldScotland: Richard Tracey is among the abuse survivors fighting for justiceRichard Tracey is among the abuse survivors fighting for justice

One of a inquiry's key witnesses, Richard Tracey, 47, said he was "shocked but not surprised by events".

Mr Tracey, who now lives in England, was taken into care aged two, after his single-parent mother took her life.

He was placed with a large local foster family in Kilmarnock in the early-1980s, where he was subjected to physical abuse and also claims to have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend.

He said he feared the events were a sign that the "establishment" was still being protected, decades later. 

He said: "Here we go again - it's quite clear that this is not our time to be heard. 

"I'm pretty shocked, and good on Prof Lamb for having the guts to come out and say what he has done. 

"These are exactly the sorts of people who need to be involved in inquiries, who aren't afraid to say 'I'm not tolerating this'. 

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, this inquiry, and it's already been messed up."

Mr Tracey added: "I'm very, very angry about this - this is supposed to be our inquiry. 

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for survivors and the Scottish Government are slowly but surely eroding that. It's really bad."

Survivors and their representatives have been invited to a ministerial meeting to discuss both the progress of the inquiry and wider support for survivors.

The meeting is now due to take place next week.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We entirely reject Prof Lamb’s comments about the Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Government has a clear obligation to fulfil its responsibilities within the requirements of The Inquiries Act 2005 and other relevant legislation. 

"Our primary focus remains on supporting the successful operation of the independent statutory Inquiry.

“Ministers are grateful to Prof Lamb for his work.”