Nicola Sturgeon urged to get involved and prevent another Mortonhall

Willie Reid. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Willie Reid. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
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A BEREAVED father is asking Nicola Sturgeon to intervene personally and bring in a licensing scheme for funeral directors to make sure the Mortonhall ashes scandal can never happen again.

Willie Reid, whose daughter, Donna, was cremated in 1988, gave evidence to MSPs last month, calling for licensing and regulation of undertakers.

And a Holyrood committee agreed such a scheme should be introduced “without delay”.

But Public Health Minister Maureen Watt has ruled out an immediate move to licensing, claiming there is not enough evidence that it is necessary.

Now Mr Reid has written to the First Minister, asking her to step in and include a licensing scheme in legislation currently going through the Scottish 
Parliament. He said: “They are going down the route of regulations and codes of practice for crematoria, which is fine.

“But I never dealt with 
Mortonhall crematorium at all – everything was done by the undertakers. It was they who said there would be no ashes and told me ‘sign here’ while on the back of the form they had ticked a box saying ‘disperse the ashes’.”

The Evening News revealed in December 2012 how for years parents had wrongly been told there would be no ashes left to scatter after their children had been cremated, when in fact remains were disposed of by staff in the Mortonhall grounds.

The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill, which has already been approved in principle by MSPs, is intended to modernise the industry and prevent a repeat of the ashes scandal.

It includes a provision which would allow ministers to introduce a licensing system for funeral firms at some future date. But the parliament’s local government committee described the Bill as a “missed opportunity” and said licensing should be implemented without delay.

However, during the debate on the Bill, Ms Watt rejected the call.

She said: “At the moment, there is not enough evidence about the industry as a whole to say with certainty that licensing is required or what form a licensing scheme would take.

“Although we have heard accounts of poor practice by funeral directors, I believe that most companies provide a good service.”

She said she wanted inspectors to review the industry and make recommendations about the need for licensing and how licensing could most effectively operate.

In his letter to Ms Sturgeon, Mr Reid said numerous MSPs had supported the licensing call during the debate.

And he continued: “I am astounded that the Public Health Minister has chosen to ignore these calls. I am writing to you to ask that you personally review this decision.

“We need this Bill to send out to all in the funeral industry that what has gone before shall not and cannot happen again.”