FINANCIAL support for the charity Sands Lothian is to be provided by Edinburgh City Council to help the group counsel parents left devastated by the Mortonhall Crematorium scandal.
Chief executive Sue Bruce was yesterday delegated the authority to free up a grant for Sands as it was revealed the charity was left to pay for the postage of council letters sent to up to 150 families affected by the fallout.
The council had previously spoken of “facilitating counselling support” for bereaved parents, but had committed limited funds outside of setting up a hotline and launching an internal investigation.
Sands has been swamped since early last month when the group first uncovered the shocking revelations that Mortonhall staff had failed to pass on babies’ ashes for more than 45 years, instead burying remains on-site in cardboard boxes.
The charity said it had already run well over its annual budget of about £95,000, with two months still left to run in the financial year.
Yesterday’s commitment, approved by the council’s governance, risk and best value committee, came just 24 hours after the Scottish Government announced its own one-off £30,000 grant for Sands.
City chiefs have yet to determine the size of their financial support, but the money could be handed over as early as today.
The support was agreed to after a passionate plea for help by three Sands representatives led by operations manager Dorothy Maitland.
Following the committee’s decision, Ms Maitland said: “It’s just going to enable us to continue the support that we’re offering at the moment, which is basically seven days a week and late at night.”
Leith councillor Gordon Munro pointed out that Sands helped families across the Lothians, not just Edinburgh, and urged the council to pressure neighbouring authorities to also financially support the charity’s efforts.
Senior QC Dame Elish Angiolini has been appointed to review both the council’s preliminary findings into Mortonhall and the audit of cremation records by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
She said the former Lord Advocate had been given the authority to seek help from other experts, including fellow QCs and pathologists, as part of her remit.
City environment spokeswoman Councillor Joanna Mowat urged for financial restraint, saying: “Not that I want to say we should be penny-pinching on this, but experts sometimes lead to high fees.”
Ms Bruce said she was “very mindful” of the financial implications.
An interim report about the investigation, including costings, is due to go to the council’s transport and environment committee in March.