SURVIVORS of childhood abuse say they have lost confidence in the Scottish Government’s child abuse inquiry and have called for claims of Government interference to investigated.

The call comes after Monday’s resignation of Susan O’Brien, the chairwoman of the panel, who stepped down just a week after Professor Michael Lamb, another of the three panel members, resigned, claiming government interference was making the job untenable.

Open Secret, which runs the In Care Survivors group, said the handling of the inquiry had left abuse victims “re-traumatised” and suspicious of the inquiry, and called for survivors to be put at the heart of the process.

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John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, has denied any interference and says he aims to rebuild trust by meeting with survivors tomorrow.

O’Brien’s resignation came after Scottish ministers initiated proceedings against her under reference section 12 of the Public Inquiries Act 2005 back in May, after it was alleged she made inappropriate comments about a victim of sexual abuse.

Concerns had been raised by Claire Fyvie, an expert in trauma and head of service at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Rivers Centre, who said she had showed a “shocking level of misjudgement” by commenting at the end of a training session that someone affected by child abuse had said it was “the best thing that had happened to them”.

However, in her resignation letter O’Brien said: “My trust that the Scottish Government will actually respect the independence of the inquiry has now gone.” She added that her resignation came with “a heavy heart”. Her claims chime with those of Professor Lamb, who, along with the remaining panel member, Glenn Houston, had written to the Scottish Government to give O’Brien his backing.

Janine Rennie, chief executive of Open Secret, said she was deeply concerned both by the allegations made by Susan O’Brien and by the accusations of Scottish Government interference.

Her organisation has already supported ten survivors of abuse as they gave evidence, with several others preparing to do so, but she claimed their trust in the process had been shaken.

She added: “It’s very distressing for them to go through this. It is re-traumatising. This is going to make the future of this inquiry very difficult. It’s taken a great deal of work to ensure that survivors have reason to put their trust in it and that is now going to make some think twice. There needs to be a full investigation into how we got here.”

She said the inquiry structure should be redesigned to ensure it was completely independent from either ministers or civil servants, and a new leader must be appointed urgently.

One survivor, who was abused physically, emotionally and sexually by his parents in the late 1960s, was taken into care at age four, but solicitors argued his parents had learned their lesson and he was returned. He was abused again for a further two years and believes no one was ever held properly accountable. He was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and has made repeated suicide attempts.

He said he was now questioning his faith in the process. “I am angry at the Government,” he told the National. “We need to know much more about why Michael Lamb and Susan O’Brien resigned, and we need reassurances from the Government they will not interfere.

“We survivors feel that we are a commodity here. We are the victims of abuse and we feel that this arena has stopped being about us.”

However, John Swinney said the dispute centred on the use of public finances and insisted officials have a duty under the Inquiries Act 2005 in relation to the use of public finances.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “That is the area where Scottish Government officials have, in my view, legitimately and appropriately been taking forward their responsibilities.”

Mr Swinney said a “protracted discussion” had taken place earlier in the year about whether it was necessary for members of counsel to take all the statements from survivors at about £100 an hour.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We absolutely refute any suggestion of interference. In the course of the inquiry we have asked for details around the costs we were expected to allocate and approved all these costs once this information was received.”