JOHN SWINNEY has been accused of letting down the survivors of child abuse after refusing to extend the remit of the inquiry established by the Scottish Government into the issue.

The Education Secretary was criticised after he said he would not expand the independent Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry to cover day schools and youth groups.

The four year inquiry will focus on sexual, physical and emotional abuse in foster care, children’s homes, boarding schools and long-term hospital care.

Some survivor groups campaigned for the remit to be broadened but others wanted it left unchanged to avoid delays.

Mr Swinney told MSPs he would be failing survivors of abuse which took place in “in-care” settings, where institutions had the legal status and obligations of parents, if he opened it up to “non in-care” settings and thereby added years to the process.

He said: “If we set a remit which would in practice take many more years to conclude, we are failing to respond to those survivors of in-care abuse who have taken us at our word - in Government and in Parliament - that we will learn from their experience and, by addressing the systematic failures which existed, ensure it can never happen again.”

Mr Swinney also announced the Scottish Government had introduced a bill to parliament to end the time bar for those seeking civil damages over abuse committed after September 1964. Survivors are presently required to start an action within three years of their 16th birthday.

The new legislation removes the time bar, and allows claims on the basis of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. There is no time bar on criminal action.

He said: “Criminal behaviour should be referred to the police and I hope, where the evidence exists, this will be energetically pursued through the criminal courts.”

Mr Swinney said he regretted it was legally impossible to enable civil compensation cases for abuse committed before September 1964. He also announced a consultation on a fund for financial redress.

Although less troubled than the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales, now on its fourth chair, the Scottish inquiry has had its own problems, including the resignation of chair Susan O’Brien QC in July citing political interference. A second member of the panel, Prof Michael Lamb, also quit saying it was “doomed”.

It is now chaired by judge Lady Smith, who is assisted by social work expert Glenn Houston.

Andrew Lavery of survivors group White Flowers Alba said Mr Swinney should resign as Education Secretary for failing to address the child abuse which had taken place in Scottish state schools, calling his statement “unjust and malodorous”.

Labour MSP Iain Gray said the “vast majority” of abuse survivors remained excluded from the inquiry, adding: “Failing to widen the scope of the inquiry looks to be a serious mistake.”

An Inquiry spokesperson said: “The Inquiry continues to make progress with its important work as it seeks to investigate how children were failed and make recommendations to ensure that children in care are protected now and in the future.”