The public cost of major 'lessons to be learnt' public inquiries in Scotland has soared sixfold over ten years to over £120m leading to new concerns about whether they are value for money.

The five major inquiries that have been running in the last six months eclipses the two that were live ten years ago, the Herald on Sunday can reveal.

The current public cost of the inquiries,  four of which are still running is enough to build seven average sized schools.

Ten years ago the two live major inquiries at the time came to to a total cost of £22.12m.

READ MORE: Can Yousaf calm the SNP storm a year on from Sturgeon exit?

Inquiries are a way to scrutinise serious events of public concern that have occurred and can fulfil multiple purposes including establishing the facts, determining accountability, learning lessons and making recommendations.

While seen by some as important in certain circumstances, the rising numbers of them have led to increasing concerns that politicians and officials are over-relying on them for dealing with live issues, hoping they will go away.

They have established a reputation for being slow-moving beasts.

The most expensive and longest running of the current probes is the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry into historical abuse of children in residential care that was formally established in October, 2015 - ten months after the Scottish Government announced that it would happen.

Concerns have been raised about the mounting costs - currently running at £78.211m and delays.

READ MORE: Alistair Bonnington -  Is the Scottish Covid Inquiry a waste of money?

The Iraq Inquiry, into the UK's involvement in the Iraq War, chaired by Sir John Chilcot, cost just over £13m over the eight years it was in action.

The Herald: Chairman of the Iraq Inquiry Sir John Chilcot

Six years after the start of the on-going child abuse inquiry and long after the original deadline, Lady Smith released a report which was critical of the previous Scottish government for the 'woeful and avoidable' delay between August 2002 and December 2014 in setting up the inquiry.

Also suffering hold-ups was the Edinburgh Tram inquiry held in Edinburgh to establish why the capital's trams project incurred delays, cost more than originally budgeted and delivered significantly less than was projected.

Eventually, five years later than planned, the 8.7 mile and £835m trams route scheme from Edinburgh airport to the city centre opened in 2014.

It has taken nearly two years longer than Chilcot for the trams inquiry to produce findings for similar costs - £13.1m The City of Edinburgh Council has instituted an action plan after Lord Hardie found in September that it, its tram firm TIE and the Scottish Government were responsible for a “litany of avoidable failures”.

READ MORE: Can Yousaf calm the SNP storm a year on from Sturgeon exit?

The Taxpayers' Alliance free-market pressure group said that the inquiries must not be the default option for politicians to "kick issues into the long grass".

Joanna Marchong, the group's campaign manager of the Taxpayers' Alliance said: “Given the cost of these inquiries, taxpayers will be wondering about the fruitfulness of the result.

“It’s too often the case that politicians and pen pushers seek to dodge the blame for their decisions through slow and costly inquiries.

“The most useful ‘lessons to be learnt’ are in value for money, efficiency and decisiveness."

The inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh launched in November, 2019 has so far cost £16.289m - nearly £3m more than the Chilcot inquiry.

The 31-year-old gas engineer, originally from Sierra Leone, died in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in 2015 after a struggle while being restrained by police officers in Kirkcaldy in May, 2015.

The Herald:

The Scottish Hospitals Inquiry chaired by Lord Brodie QC which is examining issues of safety and wellbeing issues at two Scots health establishments has so far cost £14.33m after opening in August, 2020.

It is examining complaints around the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow, and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP) and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.

The inquiry will determine how vital issues relating to ventilation and other key building systems occurred Then health secretary Jeane Freeman said in June 2020 that the inquiry had been ordered to protect the "safety and well-being of all patients and their families", which the health secretary said should be a "primary consideration" in all NHS construction projects.

And the Scottish Covid-19 inquiry which started in August, 2022 to examine Scotland's response to and the impact of the pandemic and to learn lessons for the future has run up costs of £12.816m so far.

The inquiry, commissioned by the Scottish government but run independently under chairman Lord Brailsford has also been hit with a number of delays including the resignation of the original chairwoman Lady Poole for personal reasons shortly before it emerged four other senior lawyers had resigned.

The separate UK Covid inquiry, chaired by former judge Baroness Hallett, has been sitting in Edinburgh over three weeks from mid-January taking evidence on decision-making in Scotland.

It was during the 12 sessions of the UK Government-commissioned probe taking place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) that the former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied accusations of secrecy, while admitting that she deleted her WhatsApp messages during the pandemic.

Video: Nicola Sturgeon fought back tears as she refuted allegations that she had seen an “opportunity” for political gain in the Covid pandemic during the UK Covid inquiry.

She said decisions were not made via informal messages and that they were deleted in line with government policy.

It was also during the UK inquiry that the deputy first minister John Swinney also admitted that he deleted messages between himself, Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf in a practice which could date back to 2007.

Last week official action was launched by a watchdog into the Scottish government's use of informal messaging in the wake of the admissions.

The Scottish Information Commissioner, which oversees freedom of information (FOI) laws, stated that the Covid-19 inquiry had raised "significant practice concerns" over how ministers used messaging services such as WhatsApp.

Alastair Bonnington, former honorary professor of law at the University of Glasgow, believes that public inquiries should be done away with and that the UK inquiry's Covid-19 response probe in Edinburgh made Scotland's version "completely unnecessary".

The retired former head of legal at BBC Scotland for 16 years said: "When I practised daily at Glasgow Sheriff Court the Crown occasionally convened Fatal Accident Inquiry . They only happened if something useful could be learned for similar situations in the future, as Scots law requires - not just because the grieving relatives want one. They were speedy and inexpensive.

"Today the Crown holds so many useless FAIs there is now a scandalous delay between the death and when they begin.

"Back then the idea of holding a horrendously expensive public inquiry was hardly ever considered. Rightly almost no case was judged to be so important and of such general application. But again due to politicians following their own weird self-serving agendas we are nowadays wasting extraordinary sums of public money on such public inquiries most of which are extremely lengthy and completely pointless.

"The Scottish Covid Inquiry was undoubtedly set up by the SNP government to produce a ringing endorsement of Nicola Sturgeon's outstanding leadership - despite the facts proving that the truth is very different. Why go ahead with it?

"What can be its aim now given the success of the UK Inquiry at finding the truth? Together with numerous other pointless public inquiries, Scotland's limited resources are being spectacularly squandered.

"After all, even when an investigation unearths something useful politicians often fail to act.

"It may be rare for a lawyer - even a retired one - to support the idea that the Scottish public purse shouldn't throw shedloads of money at lawyers for no useful outcome. But where the public interest lies is clear. We must halt holding these useless inquiries as soon as possible."

Ten years ago there were just two live major public inquiries active in Scotland.

The judge-led  Penrose Inquiry in Scotland into the contaminated blood scandal of the 1970s and 80s and how thousands of patients were infected with hepatitis C and HIV cost £12.123m over its six years.

Ending in March, 2015, it concluded few matters could have been done differently and the victims branded it a "total whitewash".

The Herald:

It made just one recommendation - that anyone in Scotland who had a blood transfusion before 1991 should be tested for Hepatitis C if they have not already done so.

The Vale of Leven Hospital Inquiry into a fatal outbreak of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) in 2007 and 2008 which was set up January, 2007 with the final report produced in 2014 cost £10m.

The probe was launched after 55 patients at the Dunbartonshire hospital developed the bug. Eighteen died between 2007 and 2008.

The probe, led by Lord MacLean, was heavily critical of care standards at the Dunbartonshire hospital and made 75 recommendations for change.

It found that of 143 patients with C. diff, it was a contributory factor in 34 deaths.

The inquiry, under retired judge Lord MacLean, was originally due to report its findings by May 2011 but it didn't emerge until November, 2014.

The families said the 75 recommendations were "detailed and far reaching" and they expected the health authorities to "fully implement" them.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Public inquiries provide important opportunities to establish facts and to learn lessons for the future in the most transparent means possible.

“Statutory public inquiries are established in accordance with the Inquiries Act 2005 and operate independently of government. While Scottish public inquiries are funded by the Scottish Government, as set out in section 17 of the same Act, managing expenditure is the responsibility of the Chair of the relevant inquiry.”