First Minister to review baby ashes inquiries

The scandal was first revealed at Mortonhall Crematorium. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The scandal was first revealed at Mortonhall Crematorium. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has said he will “reflect on and review” the results of current investigations into the nationwide baby ashes scandal before making a decision on whether to hold a public inquiry.

Mr Salmond made the statement during a two-hour meeting with parents demanding answers after discovering the remains of their children had been secretly disposed of by crematoriums across the ­country.

The scandal emerged last December when it was revealed by the Evening News that Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh secretly buried the ashes of babies for decades without the knowledge of the families, who were told no remains could be recovered from such young children.

Willie Reid, chair of Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee (MAAC), said: “We are grateful to the First Minister for giving us two hours of his time and for listening to the personal stories of the parents who attended.

“However, he has maintained his stance that he will wait for the results of the current investigation and commission before making a decision on whether to hold a public inquiry, though he has not ruled this out.”

The meeting, which took place at the Scottish Parliament, was attended by ten parents affected by the scandal, including Arlene and Gary McDougall, of Howdenhall. The McDougalls discovered seven months ago that the remains of their son Fraser, who passed away in 1999, had been interred in the garden of rest at Mortonhall Crematorium without their knowledge or consent.

The meeting was also attended by affected parents from Glasgow, Falkirk and Aberdeen, along with Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson and the Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC.

Mr Reid continued: “While we do feel that our complaints and concerns were taken seriously we would rather that we had agreed to move ahead with a nationwide inquiry – which can only be public – now.

“The commission being led by Lord Bonomy is only looking forwards, not back, and Dame Elish Angiolini’s investigation has no legal powers. We also raised concerns with Mr Salmond over the fact that there are no parents represented in Lord Bonomy’s commission, which means it is not transparent. Mr Salmond gave assurances he would reflect on those concerns as well.”

The First Minister also told the campaigners that Dame Angiolini’s investigation could be used as a blueprint for other local authorities if deemed ­successful.

Mr Reid said that the MAAC would continue its fight for a full public inquiry.

However, Dorothy Maitland, of bereavement charity Sands Lothian, which first uncovered the scandal, said she agreed with the First Minister’s ­reasoning.

She said: “If a public inquiry was launched now the two current investigations would have to be halted.

“However, I do hope there will be a full public inquiry as soon as is possible.”

See also:

Baby ashes scandal parents to meet Alex Salmond

Mortonhall scandal: Grieving parents refused babies’ ashes as mass grave at Crematorium revealed