Mortonhall ashes scandal: Invitation gaffe blasted

Dorothy Maitland says parents have endured enough agony already. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Dorothy Maitland says parents have endured enough agony already. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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GRIEVING parents have accused council bosses of “gross insensitivity” after invitations to view cremation records were sent to just half of those affected by the Mortonhall ashes scandal.

Those not contacted said they feared no information had been found for their child after a batch of 101 letters began landing on doormats yesterday morning.

However, council bosses said they would soon be writing to the remaining 100 or so affected parents who do not know what happened to their children’s remains.

Dorothy Maitland, of bereavement charity Sands Lothian, who uncovered the scandal, said she had fielded several calls from distraught parents who had dashed home from work only to find that no letter had been received.

She said: “This is grossly insensitive and very cruel. It beggars belief that they would send these letters out in batches like this – what are those who have not yet received a letter to think?

“Families have been waiting years to find out the truth about their loved ones. The least the council should have done is sent all the letters at the same time.

“Parents have gone through enough and this has left many to feel that their child has been forgotten all over again.”

The letters, signed by council chief executive Sue Bruce, explain that an investigation, launched by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) in January, had now been completed and that records were available to view.

A team of auditors from PwC was drafted in by the city council to search more than 100,000 records held by the crematorium since it opened in 1967.

Records were removed from the Howdenhall Road institution and taken to the council’s headquarters at Waverley Court for an audit which assessed how many stillborn babies, or those who died within days of being born, were cremated and what happened to their ashes.

Willie Reid, chair of the Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee, who received a letter, said he was “absolutely shocked” at how the council had chosen to inform parents.

He said: “Those parents who have not received a letter have not found out anything, they’ve just been left in limbo again. I cannot believe that the council can be so insensitive.”

A council spokesman said: “Over 100 letters have been sent to parents regarding Mortonhall records and we will be in touch with all parents who have contacted us. We understand that people want access to information and have issued letters as soon as the audited information was available.

“We will continue to issue letters this week and have been consulting with Sands Lothians and SiMBA throughout all stages of this complicated process.”

DAVID O’LEARY