Grieving parents form own Mortonhall action group

Mortonhall Crematorium. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Mortonhall Crematorium. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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GRIEVING parents pushing for a public inquiry into the Mortonhall Crematorium scandal have formed an action group in a bid to press for answers.

The Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee (MAAC) held its first meeting this week as Lothian and Borders Police yesterday confirmed criminal complaints against the crematorium had grown to 13.

Willie Reid, who last month launched a petition calling on the Scottish Government to launch an inquiry, has been appointed chairman of MAAC.

The 46-year-old, from Bathgate, is among hundreds of parents searching for answers after Mortonhall staff failed to pass on babies’ ashes for more than 45 years. Mr Reid never received the ashes of his daughter, Donna, who died after birth and was cremated at Mortonhall in 1988.

He said the group’s purpose was to lobby MSPs and take some of the burden away from bereavement charity Sands Lothian, which has been swamped with counselling requests since the scandal broke. Sands have conceded they will run out of money if not helped.

Mr Reid said: “Unfortunately, people are losing babies every day and Sands have got to support those parents as well. Their workload has almost doubled since this scandal broke.

“We’ve got members of Sands on the committee, we’re working alongside them, but it’s basically to alleviate the pressures on their resources.”

MAAC will meet fortnightly, but Mr Reid said any discussions would be put on hold if police decided to launch a criminal investigation.

The group’s formation came as Sands operations manager Dorothy Maitland said she had been urged by political leaders to await the results of a council-managed investigation.

Auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers have been drafted in by Edinburgh City Council to search more than 100,000 records held at Mortonhall since it opened in 1967.

Findings are not expected until March at the earliest.

Ms Maitland met with minister for public health Michael Matheson and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill for more than an hour on Thursday.

Ms Maitland said: “They’d like to see the result of the external investigation before we discuss a public inquiry. They said that if it went to a public inquiry at this stage, the external investigation legally would have to be stopped.”

However, Mr Reid said MAAC would press ahead in meeting parents’ wishes by achieving a public inquiry.

He added: “My opinion is it [the independent investigation] will still be an inquiry that has no legal power. We have to fight for an inquiry where there will be legal powers.”

Sands will be holding a fundraising walk in March from Silverknowes Golf Club.