Mortonhall Scandal: Salmond open to public inquiry

Ruth Davidson.  Picture:  Neil Hanna
Ruth Davidson. Picture: Neil Hanna
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FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has signalled he is willing to listen to the case for a public inquiry into the scandal of grieving parents being denied their babies’ ashes.

Parents campaigning to find the truth about what happened at Edinburgh’s Mortonhall crematorium – and possibly elsewhere in Scotland – believe a full, independent public inquiry is the only way they will get the answers they need.

Up until now the authorities have failed to heed their call. But after it was revealed that the ashes of 24 babies cremated at Aberdeen crematorium in the last five years were never given to the families, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions.

And Mr Salmond appeared open to the idea, saying he believed the Edinburgh inquiry now under way, led by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, was “an effective way to proceed”, but adding that the government was “always prepared to listen to positive suggestions”.

“If Ruth Davidson wants to bring forward proposals as to why a national public inquiry would actually benefit the parents, then of course we will look at it,” he said.

For 45 years, grieving parents were told by bosses at the council-run Mortonhall 
Crematorium there would be nothing to scatter after the cremation of their children when, in fact, the ashes of babies who were stillborn or died within days were kept by the crematorium and later buried.

Ms Davidson said she would now be writing to Mr Salmond. She said: “The First Minister must realise that the case for a full public inquiry into the baby ashes scandal is overwhelming.

“The First Minister indicated he was willing to consider a public inquiry if new information was brought forward. The families caught up in this awful scandal deserve nothing less.”

Dorothy Maitland, of bereavement charity Sands Lothian, who first uncovered the scandal, said she hoped Mr Salmond would accept the need for a public inquiry. She said: “I really hope he will think about it. The more this goes on, the more it becomes apparent this is the only thing that is going to get us answers.”

Mrs Maitland, who was due to meet Dame Elish today, said: “I do think she’ll do a good job, but she can’t force anyone to speak and I feel there are people who know what’s been going on.”

Willie Reid of the Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee said the First Minister’s remarks were encouraging. He said: “Up till now the Scottish Government has been very vague in their response. This sounds like a positive step. We will continue to lobby them.”