Gina Davidson: It’s time to meet nation’s desires

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LORD Bonomy’s Commission which investigated the practices and procedures of Scotland’s crematoria in the light of the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal, finally made its recommendations on Tuesday.

Established by the Scottish Government once it came to light that it wasn’t just Mortonhall which was failing parents of babies who had died not long after birth, or indeed who were stillborn, it has thoroughly deconstructed the whole process of cremation across Scotland.

There are many technical details among its recommendations and requirements for changes to cremation law – including a proper definition of what constitutes “ashes” – but the most important thing it asks is that those involved – from health boards to funeral directors and crematoria staff – are sensitive in their handling of the babies and the parents and that families are at the heart of the decision-making about just what will happen to their precious child’s ashes.

The report states: “In legislating, devising policy, drafting information and guidance documents, and making arrangements for and conducting baby cremations, the baby and the interests of the family should be the central focus of attention.”

With this at the heart of future policy and procedures at crematoria, and in the way funeral directors and hospitals deal with the death of babies, there could now be a sea change in how we respond to such loss as a society.

How marvellous would it be if from now parents who lose a child – at a stage where cremation is possible – are treated in the same way they would be if their child had been alive for years? How great that no matter how short their lives there’s no short shrift from authorities? How wonderful that parents could feel able to be open about their loss and for society to show real care for them rather than pretend it never even happened.

However that statement by Lord Bonomy also made me think about the draft constitution which was launched this week by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Putting to one side the fact that I don’t believe a constitution, draft or not, should be produced solely by one political party as it very obviously makes it more a manifesto than a charter of fundamental principles which a nation believes to hold true, it was rather tentative stuff.

There was the right to a free education, the banning of nuclear weapons from our shores (both hugely political rather than purely constitutional), protecting human rights, safeguarding children (rights we have already) and tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity (all very worthy and vital).

But I hope that the consultation now open and the months of debate around a real constitution – should Scotland need one – is not affected by the limited scope of this draft.

Lord Bonomy’s words of putting the people affected at the heart of decision making rings so true in this respect. A constitution should aim to reflect the whole nation’s desires – and wouldn’t it be radical, if admittedly a little bit Hallmark, to put the idea of care at the heart of the kind of country and society we want to live in?

Like the debate about childcare which seems to just revolve around how many more hours kids can be in nursery so parents can work, shouldn’t we all be looking to reach for higher ideals?

Why couldn’t we enshrine such ideas as a caring society? Or the right to live in a society which puts people first and gives us all the chance to achieve the work/life balance that we want? The right to live in a country where gender isn’t an issue? The right to have our opinions listened to at the heart of government, be it national, local, grassroots? The right to have our emotional needs met as well as our physical and mental health ones?

I think I had hoped that the whole independence debate would rise above the “he says, she says” arguments, but of course it couldn’t.

It’s a debate about two diametrically opposite views. If there is a yes vote – and even if not and there are more powers devolved to Holyrood – I hope we, all of us, are finally asked what kind of country we want to live in.

Murray right to head to sunny Spain

THE decision by the organiser’s of Brodie’s Champions of Tennis event to cancel the sporting event which would have seen John McEnroe and Tim Henman playing in Edinburgh, just proves how right Andy Murray was to head for Spain as a youngster for his coaching.

Despite the tennis competition scheduled for “summer”, the lack of a roof over the Stockbridge venue has meant the event can’t go on. Last year play was stopped because of rain – and with people paying £100 a ticket, that was never going to wash again.

Footie opens up world to my kids

WORLD Cup fever has my home in its grip. While the football is great, what I really love about it is how it opens up the world to children.

My five-year-old can now point at a map and tell me where the Cote D’Ivoire is while my ten-year-old waxes lyrical about why he’d rather live in Recife than Rio. Well, he can dream can’t he?

Rainbow not so bright

LABOUR threatened to pull out of coalition with the SNP at the City Chambers because of disagreements over the local development plan, and the housing expansion possible in the west of the city. Just imagine how many times those sabres would have been rattled if they’d got their way with a “rainbow coalition” of parties.