Alex Salmond rejects baby ashes inquiry calls

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Alex Salmond has again rejected calls for a public inquiry into the baby ashes scandal, while revealing his own mother had a stillborn child.

• Alex Salmond rejects third call for national inquiry into baby ashes scandal

Alex Salmond rejected calls for a nationwide inquiry into the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal. Picture: TSPL

Alex Salmond rejected calls for a nationwide inquiry into the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal. Picture: TSPL

• First Minister reveals his mother had a stillborn child as he expresses “great sympathy” with families

• Inquiry into pratices at Edinburgh’s Mortonhall crematorium already taking place, but critics argue it will not cover all local issues

He brought his family’s experience into the weekly First Minister’s Questions session at Holyrood where he faced repeated calls to order a public inquiry into the baby ashes scandal.

“Let’s just accept that everyone in this Parliament has great sympathy and empathy for the parents in these circumstances,” he said.

“I suspect people across the country - my mother, and this is common with many families with experience of this, had a stillborn child.

“If you add to that the extremity of not knowing about the disposal of a child’s ashes then every person, every human person, understands how parents feel in those circumstances, or at least has the empathy to try and understand how parents feel.

“That is shared across this entire Parliament.”

He was responding to Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson who was using the questions session for a third time to call for a nationwide inquiry.

An independent commission, led by former high court judge Lord Bonomy, has already been established.

He will review policies and practice across Scotland in relation to the handling of ashes following the cremation of babies and infants, and make recommendations for improvements.

It emerged last December that Mortonhall crematorium in Edinburgh secretly buried the ashes of babies for decades without the knowledge of the families.

Since then other local authorities have been implicated.

Former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini is already leading an investigation into practices at Mortonhall.

Mr Salmond said no obstacles have been found in the existing inquiries.

“If it’s not possible, if our former Lord Advocate does encounter obstacles and can’t get to the truth, then I’d be the first person, just like with the Bonomy commission, to reconsider the issue and see if further steps need to be taken,” he told MSPs.

“But let’s try and conduct this answer to the anguish of parents in a way that accepts that every single member in this chamber feels empathy and understand for the circumstances and plight they are in.”

Miss Davidson said the current inquiries will not look at all local issues.

While accepting there is empathy in the Parliament, she insisted only the SNP stands in the way of a public inquiry.

“This scandal has now spread from one crematorium in one part of Scotland to multiple sites, both private and public crematoria, in at least four local authority areas,” she said.

“We have the parents, knowing how long it will take, still calling for an inquiry to find out what happened to their babies’ remains.”

Focusing on Mr Salmond’s governing party, she told Parliament: “There is no getting away from the fact that the only party that is not supporting the parents’ call for an inquiry is the SNP.

“The parents out there just don’t understand it and neither do I.”

The exchanges took place the day after campaigners claimed that Mr Salmond refused to attend a meeting where they called for a public inquiry.

Bereaved parents took photographs of their dead infants into Parliament in an attempt to draw attention to the mishandling of babies’ ashes in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Falkirk and Aberdeen.

The meeting was hosted by Labour leader Johann Lamont and backed by Miss Davidson and Green party co-convener Patrick Harvie.

No government ministers or SNP MSPs attended.

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