Mortonhall Ashes Scandal: Father wants meeting with Sturgeon

Willie Reid is seeking a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jon Savage
Willie Reid is seeking a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jon Savage
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A FATHER affected by the Mortonhall ashes scandal wants a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon to persuade her to accept the recommendation of a new report and introduce a licensing system for undertakers.

Willie Reid, whose daughter Donna was cremated in 1988, won the backing of Holyrood’s health committee when he argued for licensing and regulation of funeral directors after he gave evidence on the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill earlier this year.

But while ministers included a clause in the legislation which allows them to introduce such a system in future, they said they did not believe there was enough evidence to justify bringing it in immediately.

Now, however, the latest investigation by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini into Scotland’s crematoria says a licensing system for funeral directors should be introduced.

The Evening News revealed in December 2012 how for years bereaved parents had been told there would be no ashes to scatter after their infants’ cremations at Mortonhall, while in fact, the babies’ remains had been secretly buried in the crematorium grounds. Similar practices were later uncovered in other parts of the country.

Mr Reid said it was not the crematorium but the undertakers who had given him the misleading information.

He said: “Two days after Donna died I was given a form by the undertakers and told you don’t get any ashes from babies, just sign here.”

It was only later he discovered the undertakers had ticked a box on the back of the form saying ashes should be interred in the garden of remembrance.

Mr Reid believes a licensing system would allow minimum standards and training to be required.

He said: “At the moment, you or I could go out and start our own undertakers business tomorrow – there is no criteria.

“Dame Elish’s report is basically backing what I have been campaigning for. That’s why I want to have a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon.”

He said he had sought meetings with the First Minister before but without success.

The Scottish Government said a review was under way into whether a licensing system was necessary and how such a system would work, but it did not want to prejudge the outcome.

A spokesman added: “The First Minister sympathises with all those affected by these awful historic practices and the Scottish Government is already working to address the issues that have come to light.

“The First Minister has asked officials to discuss Mr Reid’s concerns with him and update Ministers as appropriate.”