Mortonhall ashes parents get different compensation

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THE mother who uncovered the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal has criticised an agreement which led to parents being offered different levels of compensation depending on the severity of stress suffered.

Dorothy Maitland, former operations director of bereavement charity Sands Lothian, said the settlement amounts had created “conflict” among families.

Under a deal unveiled earlier this year, all parents covered would receive at least £1000 – but those who can produce evidence that they suffered serious stress, requiring medical treatment or time off work, would qualify for £4000.

Altogether there were around 250 cases where parents of babies who were stillborn, or died soon after birth, were told there would be no ashes left following cremation, when in fact the infants’ remains were buried secretly in the grounds of the council-run Mortonhall Crematorium.

Negotiations between city chiefs and law firm Thompsons, acting on behalf of 129 parents, have produced a 
settlement which could cost the council up to £600,000.

Ms Maitland said: “On reflection, I think it might have been better to award the same amount to all parents, because that has caused a bit of conflict and some parents are now having to go and be medically assessed to see if they are eligible for tier two [compensation].

“We’ve all been damaged by this. This will never leave us. People want to draw a line under it. We will learn to live with it but it will never go away.”

The comments came after families chose a design for a memorial to the victims of the scandal at Mortonhall. They have selected a circular garden with beech hedges, birch trees, a stone ball water feature, rocks, a pathway and seating.

Ms Maitland also praised council leaders for the working relationship established with parents after the scandal was first reported in the Evening News.

“I was asked onto the working party and I have to say it’s been an absolute pleasure working with [city council chief executive] Sue Bruce... and all the others on that committee,” she said.

“They have been so genuine and so emotional about things, but professional, and have really listened to the parents.”

Ms Bruce said: “The council was very aware of the sensitivities around proposed settlement figures and worked closely with Thompsons solicitors who were representing parents.

“Figures were agreed which meant parents did not need the additional burden of taking their cases to the courts.

“At all times we have done our utmost to minimise any potential upset for parents and I want to pay tribute to their work which has brought about change in the operation of crematoria not just in Edinburgh but across Scotland.”