JOHN Swinney has rejected calls to expand Scotland’s inquiry into historic child abuse.

There had been pressure on the Government to widen the scope to look into attacks at schools and in youth groups. But yesterday, the deputy First Minister told Parliament that the inquiry would stick to its initial brief of investigating the abuse of children in care.

Swinney said any move to a broader remit would add years to the investigation and would be “failing” survivors.

He told MSPs: “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.”

He added: “Since the summer, some survivors have told me they wanted to see the current remit extended to include abuse which took place in non-residential settings such as local parishes, day schools and youth organisations.”

But he added that “some other survivor groups told me they were content with the remit of the inquiry, and did not wish to see an extension that could prolong the timescale.

“It is clear that there is not unanimity on this issue across survivors.”

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has been beset with difficulties; the original chairwoman, Susan O’Brien QC, stepped down earlier in the year, saying the panel had been undermined by ministers – a charge Swinney denies.

Senior judge Lady Smith took over as panel chairwoman in July.

During the statement, Swinney also announced that legislation would be brought forward to remove the three-year time bar on abuse victims making a claim in the civil courts.

The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill will cover sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

Labour’s Iain Gray said it was “crucial....[the panel] proceeds promptly, so survivors can feel a sense of justice.”

He argued that keeping the panel focussed on in-care cases meant the “vast majority of survivors of abuse will still be excluded from the scope of this inquiry, which will leave those survivors and their representatives frustrated.

“Failing to widen the scope of the inquiry looks to be a serious mistake.”

Alan Draper, parliamentary liaison officer for Incare Abuse Survivors (INCAS), said the Government was failing “countless survivors and ignoring the criminal behaviour of some large institutions.”

The group Former Boys and Girls Abused in Quarriers Homes (FBGA) welcomed Swinney’s statement: “The change to the inquiry remit is a positive change and will bring clarity. We were not supportive of widening the remit to such a degree whereby it had a major impact on the timescale.

“We were mindful of the issues that have occurred regarding the English child abuse inquiry. The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry term of reference and remit are focused, targeted and achievable in a reasonable timescale, including with this additional change.”

An NSPCC Scotland spokeswoman said: “We welcome the plans to explore redress for victims of abuse, no matter when the crimes against them were carried out.

“We know that the impact of child abuse can be devastating and last a lifetime, but also that there are many barriers which stop children and adults coming forward when they have been victims.

“Victims of abuse in Scotland have waited too long to have their voices heard and we urge survivors to make contact with the inquiry to tell their story. We hope that the inquiry – when it reports – will succeed in addressing the full extent of any abuse that took place against vulnerable children in care.

“The inquiry also has an important role to play in considering how we can best prevent child abuse in the future. We hope that it will leave a lasting legacy which will help protect future generations.”

The inquiry is expected to last four years.