Mortonhall parents fear being left out of probe

Dorothy Maitland. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Dorothy Maitland. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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CONCERNS have been raised that parents affected by the Mortonhall ashes scandal will not be properly represented on a commission set up to look into future policy on infant cremation.

The Bonomy inquiry has been tasked with proposing changes to the law to ensure a similar scandal can never happen again.

But it has emerged that Dorothy Maitland, the mother who uncovered the scandal and someone who has spent the past six months working with the affected parents, has not been invited to be part of the 

Instead membership of the independent commission includes Ann McMurray from bereavement charity Sands UK, along with others from the Miscarriage Association, NHS bereavement co-ordinators, the National Association of Funeral Directors, the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities and local authorities.

But Ms Maitland, operations manager with Sands Lothian, said the UK group had not been involved in dealing directly with the ashes scandal, and so could not speak for the parents involved.

It was Ms Maitland who first discovered that grieving parents had been 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 Maitland, who lost one of her own twin daughters 26 years ago, said: “Ann is the Scottish co-ordinator, based in Glasgow, but she has not been involved in the Mortonhall issue at all. Her views are very different from mine.

“Sands UK have shown no interest. Sands Lothian are a charity in our own right and I think I or someone from our board should have been asked along with Ann McMurray.

“I do understand this is not just about Mortonhall, it’s about Scotland, but I have a lot of information and a lot of knowledge about what the parents are feeling. Ann will be good at generalities, but I’m working every day with these parents and I know what they are going through.

“I’m quite hurt about it.”

Willie Reid, of Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee, which is campaigning for a public inquiry into what went on at the crematorium, said: “I think it’s disgusting that Sands UK is represented and not Sands Lothians, and there is no 
representation from families.

“Dorothy has represented the parents on a daily basis and sees the impact it has on them. Sands UK has really not engaged with anyone to date.”

The commission has issued a call for submissions, giving parents, councils, cremation staff and other interested parties the opportunity to send in their views.

Former High Court judge Lord Bonomy was appointed earlier this month to lead a review of legislation and current practices and recommend moves to ensure a consistent approach across the country.

Lord Bonomy said: “Although the membership of the commission has been drawn from those with experience of the issues arising, the success of the commission’s work is very much dependent upon the engagement and support of members of the public, particularly those affected by the trauma of infant death.

“We invite all who feel they can assist our work to do so by sending us their submissions in 
writing by July 19.”