Mortonhall ashes scandal ‘will never be repeated’

The grounds of Mortonhall Crematorium. Picture: Neil Hanna

The grounds of Mortonhall Crematorium. Picture: Neil Hanna

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New laws have been announced by the Scottish Government to ensure there can never be a repeat of the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal.

Ministers plan to change the law, introducing a legal definition of ashes and requiring authorities to keep details of both burials and cremations indefinitely.

The Evening News first revealed in December 2012 how staff at the council-run Mortonhall had been wrongly telling parents since the crematorium opened in 1967 that no ashes were left after babies were cremated. In fact, staff had secretly buried the ashes of babies for decades without their parents’ knowledge.

Further cases were reported in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Fife.

The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill was recommended by Lord Bonomy’s Infant Cremation Commission.

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt hailed the legislation as “an important step forward in bringing the governance of burials and cremations in this country into the 21st century”.

She said: “Our wide-ranging proposals aim to standardise burial and cremation practices across Scotland and provide for better scrutiny and governance of those who are tasked with this important and sensitive role.

“While this Bill is an extremely positive step forward, we cannot forget that parts of this legislation have arisen from some very tragic circumstances.

“I have written to those parents affected by the historic practices of certain crematoria and who have been involved in the work of the National Committee on Cremation, to give them more detail about the contents of the Bill.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their contribution towards the process of preparing this legislation.”

Dorothy Maitland, who was operations manager of stillborn and neo-natal death charity SANDS Lothian when the scandal emerged, welcomed the move.

She said: “I’m absolutely delighted by today’s 
announcement. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of tears.

“At times it was difficult to know if I was doing the right thing in speaking out about it.

“At the beginning I was very aware of how upsetting this was going to be for parents who had lost a baby. Then it all got a lot bigger and spread across the country.”

She added: “We will never actually know where our babies are.

“But I am very confident this will never happen again in Scotland.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com