Scotland’s baby ashes scandal: Never again

Mortonhall Crematorium was rocked by a baby ashes scandal that dated back to the 1980s. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Mortonhall Crematorium was rocked by a baby ashes scandal that dated back to the 1980s. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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NEW legislation has been brought forward to ensure there is no repeat of Scotland’s baby ashes scandals where crematorium staff secretly buried infants’ ashes without telling grieving parents. Scottish Government plans include a new legal definition of ashes.

They also include authorities being required to keep details of burials and cremations indefinitely.

In December 2012 it emerged that staff at the council-run Mortonhall crematorium in Edinburgh had been telling parents since the crematorium opened in 1967 that no ashes were left after babies were cremated. There changed in 2011 following the appointment of new management.

Around 250 families were affected.

It also emerged staff requests for a baby cremator to be installed were rejected on cost grounds.

The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill will also ensure the details when these involve a stillborn baby or a pregnancy that has been lost are recorded.

Further cases were reported in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Fife.

The legislation was recommended by Lord Bonomy’s Infant Cremation Commission.

Public health minister Maureen Watt hailed the legislation as “an important step forward in bringing the governance of burials and cremations in this country into the 21st century”.

“I have written to those parents affected by the historic practices of certain crematoria and who have been involved in the work of the National Committee on Cremation, to give them more detail about the contents of the bill. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their contribution towards the process of preparing this legislation,” she said. The changes were welcomed by representatives of the funeral trade.

Dorothy Maitland, from Edinburgh, who discovered her daughter Kaelen’s ashes were interred at Mortonhall, said: “I’m absolutely delighted by today’s announcement. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of tears. At times it was difficult to know if I was doing the right thing.”