Saturday 2 October 2021
Bishop Hugh Gilbert (front row, right) with members of the Scottish Hierarchy, including the late Archbishop Philip Tartaglia.
By Bill Heaney
The Catholic Church in Scotland has announced the creation of a new independent Safeguarding agency.
Speaking at the end of a national safeguarding webinar which attracted 450 participants from across Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, announced the establishment of a new body – the Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (SCSSA) as an independent private company.
The announcement comes on the eve of a visit to Scotland by Pope Francis for the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.
And that in itself may have shaken the hierarchy out of years of substantial inaction on child abuse matters.
News of the safeguarding decision has been released just days after Court of Session judge Lady Smith, head of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, urged religions to publicly apologise to abuse victims.
Speaking to the webinar participants, Bishop Hugh Gilbert said: “The SCSSA will operate entirely independently of the Church and will have its own staff and Board of Management who will work in close collaboration with dioceses and religious communities to ensure that they are able to meet national safeguarding standards.
“It will also develop a process that will provide an independent review of complaints about safeguarding practice and crucially, establish a forum in which those who have experienced abuse can contribute their own perspectives to the development of safeguarding.”
Bishop Hugh added: “We will shortly commence the recruitment process for the Chair and members of the Board of Management, followed by the recruitment of a Director and a Head of Safeguarding Training. It will take some time to establish the new agency and we ask for your patience and support while that process is underway.”
Bishop Hugh concluded: “The Bishops ask for your prayers that the Holy SpirIt will guide us in the selection of suitable candidates who will bring authority and credibility to the work of this new agency that will promote consistency, transparency and accountability across Catholic Church institutions in Scotland.”