Mortonhall ashes scandal: Results due in January

Dorothy Maitland accepts that the decision will not please everyone. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Dorothy Maitland accepts that the decision will not please everyone. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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The release of a long-awaited report into the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal has been pushed back to January in order to avoid delivering an emotional pre-Christmas bombshell to affected parents for the second year running.

Dame Elish Angiolini, who is compiling the report, is now aiming to publish the document in about the third or fourth week of January.

She had been expected to publish it in the autumn, but said she was conscious of not releasing potentially difficult findings to grieving parents in the middle of the festive season.

Dame Elish is still waiting to receive expert analysis from a series of key witnesses, but interviews have now been completed with affected family members, and past and existing crematoria management and staff.

Opinion has been commissioned from experts including combustion engineers and forensic anthropologists.

Recommendations are understood to have already been made to authorities about operating procedures such as data keeping at crematoria across the country.

Gaps in regulation, such as the lack of a definition for the term ‘ashes’, will also be addressed.

Some parents are expected to get extra information about the location of their baby’s ashes, but not all.

Bereavement charity Sands Lothian operations manager Dorothy Maitland said she had mixed feelings about delaying the report’s release.

She said: “It’s been a long year waiting for this information and parents have all been hanging onto this hoping that she’s going to be able to give them answers. But I 100 per cent see why she’s trying to protect the parents from another Christmas like last year. I don’t think there’s an easy way.

“Some who are maybe sitting and waiting for answers – there might not be answers. For others, it might just be really hard to hear.”

The scandal was first reported in the Evening News on December 5 last year. Sands Lothian said at the time that cremated ashes of new and stillborn babies had been buried without parents’ knowledge at the council-run Mortonhall 
Crematorium for more than four decades.

The organisation was subsequently bombarded will calls for help and advice over the Christmas and New Year break as parents struggled to cope with the revelations.
Willie Reid, chairman of the Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee (MAAC), said of Dame Elish’s position: “She’s mindful that people’s Christmases last year were ruined and she didn’t want something similar to happen again this year.

“Part of me says ‘no, we need to get that out straight away’, but I have to take on board the emotions of other people.”

City environment convener Lesley Hinds said the council appreciated families would be “anxious” to see the report, with an update due once 
findings were received.

BONOMY COMMISSION WILL REPORT

A SEPARATE report on the cremation of babies across Scotland being prepared by an independent commission will be published before the end of this year.

Lord Bonomy is leading the commission, which is expected to make legislative recommendations about infant cremation and disposal of ashes.

Dame Elish Angiolini has been meeting regularly with Lord Bonomy to exchange information pertinent to the Scottish Government’s wider report.