Extra £100k for Mortonhall counselling announced

Dame Elish Angiolini has released a damning report. Picture: Cate Gillon

Dame Elish Angiolini has released a damning report. Picture: Cate Gillon

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ALEX Salmond today announced an extra £100,000 to fund counselling for families affected by the Mortonhall ashes scandal.

The cash will go to two organisations - SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) andSiMBA (Simpson’s Memory Box Appeal) - which the First Minister praised for their “sterling work” with the bereaved parents.

Answering a question from Lothiasn Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale,

Mr Salmond said everyone’s thoughts were with the parents who had suffered not only the loss of a child but also the extra trauma highlighted in the Dame Elish Angiolini’s report.

He said: “No-one should ever have to experience this pain and we are determined no-one ever will again.”

He pledged the Scottish Government would implement the recommendations in Dame Elish’s report.

And he said proposals, due later this month, from Lord Bonomy’s commission on infant cremation would be taken into legisaltion “at the earliest possible moment”.

It was announced earlier today that linked to the Mortonhall babies’ ashes scandal will be questioned by councillors at a special public summit set up in the wake of Dame Elish Angiolini’s damning report.

The hearing, similar to a restorative justice forum, will also allow families affected by the tragedy to tell their heart-breaking stories before questioning takes place.

It was announced today in a special motion at City Chambers and follows publication of an independent report into practices at the council-run Mortonhall Crematorium.

The report described the practice as a “great tragedy” and left some parents facing a “lifetime of uncertainty” because there are scant records of where the ashes were buried.

It is thought some may even have been “mixed up” with adult ashes from later cremations.

A working group will be set up to study Dame Angiolini’s recommendations consisting of representatives from the council, Police Scotland, NHS Scotland and bereavement charity SANDS Lothian - who helped expose the scandal alongside investigations by the Evening News.

The group will devise an action plan report back its findings at the special hearing to be chaired by Lord Provost Donald Wilson on June 26 at City Chambers.

Today, Council leader Andrew Burns offered “profound apologies” to parents for the “distress and pain” caused by previous practices at Mortonhall.

And he thanked Dame Elish Angiolini for her work on the investigation as well as those witnesses and parents who contributed to the report.

He said: “I have asked the Chief Executive to put together a multi-agency working group, including parents’ groups and other relevant agencies, to consider the report’s recommendations.

“The group will be tasked with a detailed action plan for consideration at next month’s special meeting of council. We must act on the recommendations to ensure that the highest possible standards are adhered to at Mortonhall and that nothing like this can happen again.”

Chief executive Sue Bruce will be responsible for chairing and facilitating both the operation of the working group and the delivery of its remit.

Scotland’s public health minister said there have been “systemic failings” at the crematorium “for several decades”,

Michael Matheson claimed there had “obviously been very serious failings” in the way Mortonhall has been run.

He said: “For any parent it’s difficult to imagine how it must feel to lose a child, but to then be put through the trauma this reports highlights is very challenging and it is very distressing.

“One element I can say that I hope some parents would take some reassurance from is the detail and the very thoroughness of this report that Dame Elish Angiolini has completed, which goes into the whole issue in great detail and illustrates what have been systemic failings at Mortonhall Crematorium for several decades now.”

He added: “At Mortonhall Crematorium there appears to have been a culture which has been based upon practices established by certain members of staff over many years on the basis of how they wanted to run the crematorium in their own way.

“There have obviously been very serious failings in the way in which this crematorium has been managed over a long period of time and that’s why it is important that the recommendations that Dame Elish outlined in her report are considered in great detail, so we can address the failings.”