THE cost of the Scottish child abuse inquiry has soared to more than £50 million, according to the latest figures published by the probe..

The inquiry racked up more than £2.8 million of spending between October 1 and December 31, making the average daily total £30,448.73 during the winter months.

In May, the inquiry, which is independent of government and chaired by Lady Anne Smith, will begin hearing evidence relating to the abuse of children in foster care.

This is the seventh phase of its investigations and will include children who were boarded out, as well as children who were placed in foster care by a Scottish local authority.

The latest spending figures were published on the inquiry’s website, taking the total to £51.7 million.

Last September, the Scottish Government apologised "unreservedly" for what was described as a "woeful and wholly avoidable" 13-year delay in setting up the public inquiry.

Lady Smith had said the government "failed to grasp" the survivors' need for justice.

They were treated as if their views were not worth listening to - just like when they were in care, she added.

The inquiry was finally set up by the Scottish Government in October 2015.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney told a hearing in 2020 that former First Minister Alex Salmond had opposed the inquiry being set up while he was in office.

Mr Swinney said there had been a clear division in cabinet over the issue and the inquiry was only set up after Nicola Sturgeon succeeded Mr Salmond.

Jamie Greene, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, told The Times: “A thorough and robust public inquiry is vital to uncover the truth about this appalling child abuse. However, the inquiry’s spiralling cost to the public is clearly a consequence of how long it is taking to unearth the truth, something which needs to change for the sake of victims.

“The inquiry has already suffered unacceptable delays as a result of SNP dithering. The government must now do all it can to ensure [it] is completed as quickly and efficiently as possible, and that justice is finally given to the victims of these horrific crimes.”

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry covers the period which is within living memory of any person who suffered such abuse, up until 17 December 2014. 

The inquiry was set up to investigate the nature and extent of abuse of children whilst in care in Scotland during the period concerned and to consider the extent to which institutions and bodies failed in their duty to protect them from abuse.

A further remit is to create a national public record of the scandal and to examine how abuse affected and still affects these victims in the long term.

It will report to ministers with recommendations to improve the law, policies and practices in Scotland.

The inquiry had its original terms of reference changed in 2018 at the request of Lady Smith to allow more time for it to complete its work.

Public hearings have restarted in recent months after being delayed during the pandemic.

The Scottish Government said the inquiry “will continue until such time as it has completed its work and a final report can be published”.

A spokesman said it was “one of the widest ranging independent statutory public inquiries undertaken in Scotland, and is a vitally important step in recognising the harm that has been caused to survivors of abuse in care”.

He added: “Whilst the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is funded by the Scottish government it operates, like any other public inquiry, independently of government.”