Council accepts Independent Inquiry recommendations and instructs action plan to be developed

Published: 25th February 2022

This morning, Scottish Borders Council met to consider the Independent Inquiry report from Andrew Webster QC and its recommendations.

Report's findings considered at public meeting 

It was the second time Mr Webster presented to Council. The first time was at a private meeting on 17 February, when the Council agreed to publish the Independent Inquiry report in full and to issue a written apology to the parents of the young people involved in the case. Netta Meadows, the Chief Executive of Scottish Borders Council, did this several days ago.

The report was published in full on our website on Monday 21 February. The families of those affected were sent a copy of the report in advance so that they could read the report for themselves at the earliest opportunity. Although the Council received the report the previous week Council had to approve the release of the report and it did so willingly.

Speaking today, following the extraordinary Council meeting earlier, Councillor Mark Rowley, Leader of Scottish Borders Council:

“Some of you may have watched the meeting today on-line, and if you did, you will have seen that the QC took questions from many of the councillors present. I think it’s fair to say, there was a robust debate around its contents and its recommendations.

“Council today was asked to agree two things: to agree to the Inquiry recommendations, and that the Chief Executive be mandated to prepare an outline action plan in response to the report’s findings, to be presented to Council on March 10.

“I am pleased to report that both points were agreed.

“Now Council has fully considered the Independent Inquiry, and agreed fully with its recommendations, I want to apologise on behalf of the Council, to the children affected, to their families and to everyone in the Scottish Borders who has an interest in this.

“I am sorry that the matters were not referred to the Child Protection Unit at the earliest opportunity, as they should have been, and I am sorry that the Council failed to communicate appropriately with those parents who had raised various concerns over time. Most of all, the Council apologises wholeheartedly that the incidents of abuse occurred in the first place.

“When I was given the report, I can tell you that I personally found it a very difficult read. It is clear we failed the children themselves, and didn’t communicate with the families appropriately and that there were many missed opportunities to have done more, sooner.

“The report is focused on the response of the Council to the allegations when they were first made, right up to the beginning of the criminal matters. Mr Webster spoke to 31 people involved with the case, and had literally hundreds of emails, written reports, and copies of messages to study. From this mass of information, he produced a detailed timeline and analysed the information shared with him to compile the detailed Independent Inquiry report that we have discussed today at Council.

“I would like to go on the record to thank Mr Webster for his hard work and detailed report.

“He has given us a set of observations to help us understand our own failings but more positively, he has used his considerable experience to detail recommendations that today Council has accepted.

“We know we must do better, much better. In the coming weeks our Chief Executive will be taking the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry report and producing a response which Council will consider on March 10. I for one, look forward to reading the proposals and to a period soon when further changes can be brought into play that will ensure that we do not fail the children in our care again.”