Top Edinburgh private schools named in child abuse investigation

Lady Smith at Parliament House in Edinburgh speaking at an update on the inquiry's current investigations. Picture; PA
Lady Smith at Parliament House in Edinburgh speaking at an update on the inquiry's current investigations. Picture; PA

THREE of the Capital’s top private schools are being investigated as part of a national child abuse inquiry.

Fettes College, Loretto School and Merchiston Castle were all named at a hearing yesterday.

The schools, with boarding fees of up to £30,000-a-year, pledged to cooperate fully with the investigation.

Boarding schools are among more than 100 institutions where the abuse of children is alleged to have taken place, inquiry chair Lady Smith announced.

“We are determined to find out the truth about what happened to children in care, where, how and why,” she said. “We want to find out why the abuse was not prevented, why it was not stopped, and what needs to be done to protect children in care in the future.”

Along with boarding schools on Lady Smith’s list are institutions run by religious orders and local authorities.

The relationship between the Catholic Church and certain religious orders will be investigated, as will the city’s Church of Scotland-run Lady Polwarth Home for Children.

Lady Smith, a senior judge appointed to the role in July, revealed the list in an update on the inquiry’s progress during a preliminary hearing at Parliament House.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is examining historical allegations of child abuse in care and has been taking statements from witnesses since last spring.

Lady Smith said 170 people had contacted the inquiry by June last year and “many more have done so since”.

She told yesterday’s hearing that the inquiry, expected to last up to four years, is “determined to get to the bottom of any systemic failures that occurred”.

She appealed to anyone with relevant evidence to come forward and speak to the inquiry.

A spokesman for Loretto School said: “We will be cooperating fully with Lady Smith’s inquiry.

“We take the safety, wellbeing and protection of our children and young people very seriously and we have zero tolerance towards staff who fail to live up to these values.

“It is truly heartbreaking to learn that similar standards may not have applied in the past.”

The spokesman added that Loretto had promoted child protection in the community for 20 years and that its policies are based on national guidance.

A spokeswoman for Fettes College said: “The welfare of our pupil’s has always been Fettes College’s priority and the school will assist fully with these enquiries.

“As this process is now under way, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage.”

A spokesman for Merchiston Castle also confirmed it will be cooperating to the “fullest possible extent” with the inquiry.