Angela Constance MSP

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Angela Constance MSP

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  • Member for: Almond Valley
  • Region: Lothian
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Angela is a member of the following Committees:

Angela is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Angela Constance

Meeting of the Parliament 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Angela Constance)

Does Mr Macintosh accept that statistics show that there is a 40 per cent increase in young people from disadvantaged backgrounds going into higher education? In the spirit of unity, does he also accept that there is, of course, a need for much more to be done, which is why a main feature of the programme for government was to set up the commission for widening access, which will be announced in a few weeks’ time?



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Angela Constance)

On 11 November, my predecessor, Michael Russell, stood in this chamber and spoke of “the moral imperative” that compels all of us to face up to and act on the reality of historical abuse of children and the current risks of child abuse.

In his statement, Michael Russell laid out this Government’s commitment to move comprehensively and quickly on these issues. He reflected on the achievements of Survivor Scotland, the interaction process and the establishment of the national confidential forum, and he promised to return to this chamber to set out the Government’s view on whether a national inquiry into historical abuse in Scotland was the right way forward to meeting the needs of survivors. Today, I am making good on that promise.

National investigations such as the Shaw review and the Kerelaw inquiry have already been carried out into this issue, and it is important for any further inquiry to complement and build on previous work, while moving the issue forward. We must also be conscious of the work that is already under way with survivors. The Scottish Government has given its commitment to working to develop a survivor support fund and to fund an appropriate commemoration, guided by the views of survivors.

The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs has invited key stakeholders from the legal sector to consider how the civil justice system can be more accessible and responsive to survivors of abuse as children in care. That will include consideration of the way in which the time bar operates, and we will continue to work with survivors to ensure the fullest understanding of the civil justice barriers that survivors face today.

Our dedication to considering all of the issues must match the seriousness of those issues. We have witnessed the pitfalls when an Administration rushes to make decisions about an inquiry without involving the people who will be most affected by it. We are not a Government that believes in haste at the expense of sense. We are committed to delivering on what we promise; the victims of abuse are owed nothing less than a thorough consideration of all factors before a decision is reached.

Of course, the case for an inquiry is strong. I am sure that I do not need to tell members of this chamber that we owe it to survivors to find the truth, to speak that truth wherever it needs to be heard, and to listen and learn from what we hear. However, we must also be mindful of the fact that inquiries are major undertakings. The decision to launch them cannot be taken lightly, and the planning around them must be careful and inclusive. They must have a clear focus and not be open-ended in either remit or timescale.

As part of our response to Scottish Human Rights Commission’s interaction process, I, the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs and the Minister for Children and Young People met a number of survivors on Monday to discuss what an inquiry would mean to them. Having listened to their personal experiences and concerns, I have deliberated carefully, and I have also reflected on the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who once said:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

This Parliament must always be on the side of victims of abuse. We must have the truth of what happened to them and how the organisations and individuals into whose care the children were entrusted failed them so catastrophically. We will get to that truth, and we will establish a national public inquiry into historical abuse of children in institutional care.

To ensure that justice is done, I can tell the chamber that, where crimes are exposed, the full force of the law will be available to bring the perpetrators to account. I can also advise the chamber that the Lord Advocate has been consulted on holding the inquiry, and measures will be put in place to ensure that it does not compromise or interfere with on-going criminal investigations and prosecutions.

I am grateful to the survivors of institutional child abuse who have taken the time to meet me and other ministers and who have spoken bravely and eloquently about why they consider that a public inquiry is needed and necessary. As vital as their voices have been in getting us to this point—they have indeed been vital—I am, of course, acutely conscious that many more survivors remain silent. As abused children, they had no voice and no one to cry out on their behalf at the appalling injustices that they suffered while they were growing up. Today, they await the right circumstances for their experiences to be heard. I sincerely hope that the public inquiry will provide such an opportunity.

As a society, we have an opportunity to confront the mistakes of our past and learn from them. That will not be easy, but only by shining a light on the darkest recesses of our recent history will we fully understand the failures of our past to enable us to prevent them from happening again and to ensure a brighter future for every child and young person in Scotland.

A few weeks ago, the First Minister set out the priorities for our Government and spoke about the need to build a fairer and more equitable Scotland. That is a vision of a Scotland that will look truth squarely in the eye and will not be quick to judge, but will not flinch from what is discovered. For that reason, the inquiry will be a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005. It will have the power to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence if required.

As intimated earlier, we will consult survivors and relevant organisations on the exact terms of reference. I propose that that process be complete by the end of April. Those terms of reference need to capture the principles of the inquiry and how we can create the right environment to support victims to confide and the right timescales over which it should be held.

The process must also find the right people to oversee the inquiry, not least any chair or panel. We will not make the same mistakes as others have made by rushing out with names before we have consulted survivors and relevant organisations about the attributes of a chair or panel. To support the work, I have asked the centre for excellence for looked after children in Scotland—CELCIS—to provide on-going logistical support, academic input and expert advice throughout the process.

Engagement with survivors has already started in earnest. Scottish Government officials have written to survivor organisations about plans for engagement around these matters for the first few months of next year. We have had a positive response from organisations, which have welcomed the opportunity to speak to us in a setting in which survivors will feel comfortable in having their voices heard.

As part of the process, we will also hold a series of regional events that will give a wide range of stakeholders the opportunity to contribute. As well as shaping the survivor support fund, those events will be used to consult on the inquiry with a view to having the terms of reference and announcing a chair or panel by the end of April next year, as I mentioned earlier.

I will conclude my statement with one further reflection. When the Parliament was reconvened in 1999 and Scotland’s inaugural First Minister, Donald Dewar, addressed the nation during the opening ceremony, he spoke of the four words on the mace that sits in the chamber: “Wisdom. Justice. Compassion. Integrity.” Those are the words that resound whenever the chamber has turned to the issue, and they are the words on which the inquiry will be founded.

I am happy to take questions from members.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Angela Constance

I am grateful to Mr Gray for the tone and tenor of his questions.

Mr Gray makes the point about why we are having an inquiry now. I am acutely conscious that it is 10 years since Jack McConnell made that very public apology on behalf of the nation, but it is important to recognise that much has happened in the past 10 years. There has been the national strategy, which was introduced in 2005 by the previous Administration and which this Administration took forward. Since 2007, we have seen the Shaw review and the Kerelaw inquiry. We currently fund 25 organisations that support survivors, and as ministers we are actively participating in the Scottish human rights interaction process, which in August this year produced a new paper that I think made a very compelling case about why we now need an inquiry.

It is important that we move forward over the first few months of 2015 hand in glove with survivors and the organisations that represent them. They need to be consulted about the person spec and the skills that we require for the chairperson or panel. There is a range of views in the survivor community about the type of individuals or, indeed, whether there should be a co-chair or a panel. We will continue that work in earnest.

Mr Gray asked which institutions will be covered. We will have to look at the detail of that, as I am acutely conscious that, when we look at the history of institutional child abuse in Scotland, it does not involve just state institutions. Children in the 1950s and 1960s, and perhaps even as late as the 1970s, were put into institutional types of care by quite informal arrangements.

It is therefore important that the terms of reference are crafted in a way that will enable us to get to the true nature, scope and extent of institutional child abuse in this country from children who were put into institutional care. I am very conscious that there are many forms of institutional care.

Finally, we are committed to ensuring that survivors have the necessary emotional and financial support both to participate in the inquiry process and as they go forward on their road to recovery.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Angela Constance

It is important to recognise that the inquiry will not operate in isolation. It is the police’s job to investigate the criminality of individuals and organisations, it is prosecutors’ job to prosecute and it is the courts’ job to convict on the basis of evidence. All of that must continue, and it does continue daily. I am sure that my colleague Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, would testify to that.

Nanette Milne makes a pragmatic point about working with other inquiries when appropriate. We have to recognise that child abuse has no borders and that we might have to work with other jurisdictions, but it is appropriate that we in Scotland have our national public statutory inquiry to look at our failings as a country in our past. My officials have already been in touch with officials in Northern Ireland, for example, because an inquiry is continuing there on that basis, and we will of course have discussions and share information and experiences as appropriate with our colleagues in the UK Government.

Nanette Milne’s point about the inquiry’s accessibility and the importance of ensuring the right support for survivors to participate is well made. That is why we are—crucially—taking our time to work with survivors to get the right terms of reference, the right scope and the right people to lead the inquiry. It is appropriate that we take time to do that and that we do not rush into decisions, albeit that there is a deadline of April. We have rightly given ourselves further time to work through the detail with survivors, which is entirely appropriate.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Angela Constance

Having placed so much emphasis on the need to consult survivors meaningfully and appropriately, I do not want to overspeculate about the purpose or the terms of reference of the inquiry. However, it is important to emphasise that the inquiry’s purpose is about getting to truth and justice; giving public acknowledgement and validation; establishing a comprehensive national record; crucially, understanding the nature and extent of the abuse of children in care and the extent to which the state and non-state institutions failed in their duty to protect vulnerable children; and, again crucially, considering how those failings have been addressed in policy, practice and legislation.

I am clear that the inquiry has to be independent and robust. Survivors tell me that they are looking for an inquisitorial inquiry as opposed to an adversarial one, but it needs to focus on the systemic and institutional failings that let so many of our children down.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Angela Constance

Can I get back to Ms McInnes about the ins and outs of whether third parties can represent individuals? I will take the suggestion on board, but I think that it needs careful consideration.

The member makes an important point in saying that we have to avoid survivors being retraumatised by having to give evidence or participate in an inquiry. It is important to stress that the purpose of a statutory inquiry is not to compel victims or survivors to appear but to compel other witnesses who are crucial to get to the truth of the systemic and institutional failings. We have to ensure the right environment, with the right skills and expertise leading the inquiry and with the right skills and expertise made available to support survivors.

It has come across clearly from survivors that we must not have a public inquiry in which the processes and ways of doing business compound trauma or retraumatise individuals. I am clear that we must avoid that.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Angela Constance

I begin by assuring Mr Pearson that I do indeed get it, as does the Government.

Mr Pearson makes a crucial point about records. As a former social worker and as a constituency MSP, I have met individuals who live with the frustration and pain of not being able to understand or put together a chronology of their life story, because records are missing. We take so much for granted: we all have many pictures of our children, and documents and memorabilia of our childhoods and those of our children. Many survivors have huge gaps in their lives because records were destroyed. It is difficult for them to move forward as part of their recovery when there are big gaps in their life stories. The point about protecting records and the integrity of information from here on in is crucial. Survivors must have absolute confidence in the process.

One of the inquiry’s core purposes is to create a comprehensive national record. I hope that that might help some individuals to piece together their life stories and journeys. That comprehensive national record is important to creating the chronology of events. Important Government work is also on-going to produce an online database of all children’s homes in Scotland.

We are looking at and learning from other jurisdictions. For example, Australia’s find and connect service can help people to piece together their lives and to locate relatives, such as siblings and parents, from whom they were separated.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Angela Constance

I appreciate Ms Fabiani’s long-standing interest in the matter of time bar. It is important to stress that there is no time bar for criminal cases—I am sure that Ms Fabiani and others recognise and understand that. Nevertheless, it is important that the Government acknowledges that the time bar for civil cases is an issue of high priority to survivors.

I am pleased to say that Paul Wheelhouse, the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, was, along with me and Aileen Campbell, the Minister for Children and Young People, at the interaction event that was organised by the Scottish Human Rights Commission on Monday. He was there to listen to the views and concerns of survivors.

Linda Fabiani is right to say that the Scottish Law Commission looked into the issue of time bar, which is complex. There is some flexibility for judges, but it remains of great concern to survivors. As I said in my statement, Paul Wheelhouse has written to key stakeholders in the legal sector, asking them to discuss these matters with him. The Government will continue to work with survivors as Mr Wheelhouse’s discussion with the legal establishment continues, so that we have the fullest understanding of the civil justice barriers that are faced by survivors.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Angela Constance

I am pleased that Michael Russell is in the chamber today. He has been a strong champion of the support that survivors greatly need and a strong advocate for an inquiry. His point about survivors’ personal testimony is a powerful one, as the personal testimony of survivors is salient to what we need to learn as individuals and as a nation.

In response to Mr Pearson, I spoke about the importance of the national collective account of what has happened and who is responsible, and how that is helpful to individuals who are piecing together their own lives and personal histories. However, as Michael Russell says, that national picture and account of what has happened is imperative if we are all to move forward collectively as a nation and ensure that we learn the lessons of the past. An important purpose of an inquiry is to fully understand what has happened and why, and to compare it to what happens today.

There is never any room for complacency when it comes to the protection of children, which must be our number 1 priority in all matters. It is, therefore, important that, as we progress in our consultation with survivors, we craft the terms of reference in the right way and give appropriate consideration to the skills of all those who are involved either directly in the inquiry or as the work of the inquiry moves forward.

Michael Russell makes the point that that is not just about involving legal and human rights experts or people with care, support, health, education and social work roles. I agree that we need to look at including individuals with a broader range of skills to ensure that we have an accurate and live national account of what has happened and what went wrong in the lives of so many of the nation’s children.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Angela Constance

I appreciate the great historical difficulties related to missing records. I give Graeme Pearson and Margaret McDougall an undertaking to ensure that everything possible will be done. We will go out and engage with appropriate stakeholders, in health or social work services, to ensure that we do all that we can to retrieve records where they exist and that we have best practice as we move forward. Obviously, there are legal requirements to meet on the maintenance and the protection of information contained in records.

The purpose of an inquiry is to work with survivors to enable them to move forward, to get to the truth and to justice, to give them that much-needed public acknowledgement and validation of what they have experienced and, as I mentioned, to create a comprehensive national record.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12095.2 Alex Johnstone: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12095.1 Willie Rennie: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12095 Alex Neil: Tackling Inequalities—That the Parliament agrees that a strong, sustainable eco
>> Show more
YesCarried

Selection of John Pentland MSP for appointment to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12060.2 Hugh Henry: Commending the People who Keep Scotland Safe in Emergencies—As an amendment
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12045.3 Shona Robison: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-12045 in the name of Rich
>> Show more
YesCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Angela Constance
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11507: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11398.2: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10829: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10214: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09744: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Parliamentary Bureau, Date Lodged: 16/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09575: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09376: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08462: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07939: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/10/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06492: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/05/2013 Show Full Motion >>
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EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S3W-37111: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/10/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-11446: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/09/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34741: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34740: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34459: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34461: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34460: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-10609: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/05/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-32037: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/03/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-32036: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/03/2010 Show Full Question >>

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