Mortonhall: Parents welcome ashes panel vow

The independent commission has been charged with ensuring a consistent approach to remains in Scotland. Picture: Toby Williams
The independent commission has been charged with ensuring a consistent approach to remains in Scotland. Picture: Toby Williams
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GRIEVING parents today welcomed a pledge to include them on the independent commission which will review legislation following the Mortonhall ashes scandal – but said they still wanted a public inquiry into how their infants’ remains were disposed of without them being informed.

The Scottish Government said bereavement charities and organisations would be represented on the commission, which has been charged with ensuring a consistent approach to the treatment of cremated remains across Scotland.

The promise came as Health Minister Michael Matheson announced the commission would be chaired by former High Court judge Lord Bonomy, who was involved in the inquiry into the Dunblane massacre.

Mr Matheson said he was confident Lord Bonomy was the “right person to take forward this important piece of work”.

The other members of the commission will be announced shortly and are expected to include representatives from local councils and the funeral industry.

Mr Matheson also said he hoped the commission would complete its work by the end of the year. But it will not investigate any individual cases.

Dorothy Maitland, operations manager of bereavement charity Sands, welcomed the commitment to include 
parents on the commission.

She said: “They are best listening to the people who have been really badly 
affected by it. I’m pleased they are moving along with this and I hope they will have come to some kind of conclusion by the end of the year.”

But she added: “A public inquiry is the only thing that’s going to answer everyone’s questions.”

In answer to a series of questions from Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, Mr Matheson said the commission would not be a statutory body and would not investigate specific incidents or allegations and would not therefore need evidence to be submitted under oath.

Ms Dugdale said: “That’s the difference between a commission and a public inquiry.

“The commission is welcome, the law needs to be updated. But it still leaves a big gaping hole where a public 
inquiry has to sit.”

Willie Reid, chairman of the Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee, said: “We welcome the commission’s work and hope we can have a representative on it, but there still has to be an inquiry into the past.”

Mr Matheson said: “The commission will look at the policies and procedures in place to ensure that wherever you are in the country, the same guidance is followed.

“Lord Bonomy’s experience and knowledge will ensure he is able to take the work of the commission forward 
effectively.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com