First minister rejects call to widen abuse inquiry
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has rejected calls for the Scottish inquiry into historical child sexual abuse to be widened to include football clubs.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale had asked her during first minister’s questions about revelations of abuse in Scottish football clubs.
But Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish government did not intend to widen the inquiry’s remit.
The inquiry under judge Lady Smith will examine the abuse of children in care.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said: “To widen the remit of that inquiry would mean that it would take perhaps many years longer to conclude its investigations and would risk it becoming completely unwieldy.
“We would be at risk I think of breaking our word to the survivors of in-care abuse.
“My view is we should allow that inquiry to get on with its job and we should allow the police to get on with their job of investigating allegations of abuse in football.”
Later, the Scottish Labour leader said the inquiry should cover “all survivors” of abuse.
Ms Dugdale said: “Former footballers have found the courage to come forward and disclose how they suffered abuse at the hands of paedophile coaches.
“Yet they will not be able to bring their cases to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry because they were not in care when they were abused. This is true for all those who suffered abuse in youth groups, parishes or other sports clubs.”
She added: “Survivors of child abuse deserve justice and the wait for the inquiry has already been too long. It holds out the promise of justice, but in restricting just who – and what – will be investigated, it will deny that justice.”
Meanwhile, a former chief executive of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) has called for an inquiry into historical sexual abuse.
Gordon Smith told the BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme it should look at how clubs and national bodies responded to allegations.
His comments came after Partick Thistle confirmed that a physiotherapist was dismissed from Firhill in 1992.
The club said it acted immediately after allegations of abuse were made.
It said it had now informed the police and the football authorities.
Mr Smith said: “There should be an inquiry, an inquiry into anybody who knew anything about this sort of thing.
“If this was happening at a club, what action did they take?
“We’re now finding out some of the cases down in England where the club tried to hush the situation, even paid a player money to not say anything about it.”
The English Football Association has commissioned an independent investigation into the way it dealt with abuse allegations.
Partick Thistle have not named the physiotherapist accused of carrying out abuse or made clear if he was reported to the authorities at the time.
He has subsequently been named as John Hart, who died in 1995.
In a statement, the north Glasgow club said: “As far as Thistle’s current management can ascertain, no other allegations were made to the club at that time with regard to him or any other employee.
“The club has contacted the SFA and Police Scotland to advise them of what they know to date and will fully comply with any investigation.”
Gordon Smith said any inquiry set up by the football authorities would have to consider three groups of people.
“Obviously there’s people who were committing the offences,” he said. “They are a disgrace and hopefully they’re going to be found out legally and charged.
“There’s the kids who suffered from it who are now adults who obviously got great psychological and traumatic effects of it.
“The third element is the people who maybe knew something about this going on and didn’t do anything about it. Although they’re maybe not legally culpable they’re certainly morally culpable because they didn’t do anything about it.”
The SFA has said it is part of a task force set up to coordinate complaints and information relating to child abuse within football.
It said Police Scotland are taking the lead and all information received is being passed on to them.
The SFA said it is not currently backing the idea of an independent inquiry but it may look at the proposal again after police have gathered evidence.