Mortonhall baby ashes scandal must never be repeated: father

Willie Reid. File picture: Neil Hanna
Willie Reid. File picture: Neil Hanna
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A BEREAVED father affected by the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal has appealed to MSPs to ensure other families are spared the trauma he experienced.

Willie Reid, whose daughter was cremated at the Edinburgh crematorium after her death in 1988, said new legislation on burials and cremations must avoid a similar scandal in future.

I’ll go to my grave never knowing what happened to my daughter’s ashes, the person who was responsible for doing that is walking about scot free.

Willie Reid

Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee is scrutinising a Bill brought forward by the Scottish Government after it emerged staff at Mortonhall had secretly buried the ashes of babies for decades without their parents’ knowledge.

The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill follows on from the recommendations of Lord Bonomy’s Infant Cremation Commission set up in the wake of the scandal.

It will introduce a legal definition of “ashes” and require authorities to keep details of burials and cremations indefinitely.

If passed, the legislation will also give ministers the power to formally regulate the funeral industry - a move which could pave the way for a licensing scheme for funeral directors to be brought in.

Mr Reid told the committee he supported the licensing, regulation and inspection of funeral directors and called for “robust, swift and fair censures” for anyone who breaches the law.

He said: “We are four years down the line from this ashes scandal coming out and... there has been nobody put in a court of law of any sort in this country over what went on thus far.

“I’ll go to my grave never knowing what happened to my daughter’s ashes, the person who was responsible for doing that is walking about scot free.

“I’m not suggesting I’m looking for somebody to go to jail right now but if we don’t make sure the act is water tight right now, in 50 years’ time we could be back with this scandal all over again.”

He added: “To revisit this 25 years later has been the most horrendous thing I’ve had to deal with in my life and I’m sure I speak on behalf of other parents who feel the same.

“So ultimately this Bill has to ensure that this can’t and won’t ever happen again.”

Former lord advocate Dame Elish Angiolini is currently heading the work of a national investigation unit looking at the baby ashes scandal.

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