THE cremated remains of babies were secretly buried after parents were led to believe there would be no ashes to scatter, it has emerged.
Child bereavement charity Sands Lothians said Mortonhall Crematorium, in Edinburgh, carried out the practice for 45 years, and that up to 4,500 families may have been affected.
The remains of children who were stillborn or days old were buried in the council-owned crematorium’s Garden of Remembrance, without being offered to be returned to their parents.
The situation came to light when babies were cremated at two other crematoriums in the city, in Seafield and Warriston, and their families were given ashes to scatter afterwards.
Edinburgh City Council has launched an investigation to “establish exactly what has gone on” after details were revealed by The Scotsman’s sister paper the Edinburgh Evening News.
The council said families had been offered the remains of their babies from Mortonhall since May last year. Dorothy Maitland, 57, operations manager of Sands Lothians, had her daughter Kaelen cremated at Mortonhall in 1986, and was told there would be no ashes to scatter.
She said: “People were led to believe there would be no ashes to scatter from a baby. Questions started to be raised when parents who had their children cremated at the city’s private crematoriums – Warriston and Seafield – were given their ashes.
“I took it up with Mortonhall, which now has a new manager. It turned out that the remains had been buried in the crematorium’s Garden of Remembrance – but it is just a plain bit of grass.
“It is a practice which took place for about 45 years and we believe there may be 4,500 families affected. In the last year, Mortonhall has been giving ashes, and it is under new management. None of the staff who would have been responsible for this still work there, but someone has to be held to account.”
Councillor Lesley Hinds, Edinburgh City Council’s environment convener, said: “I want to offer my deepest apologies to all those families who have been affected by this dreadful and completely unacceptable situation.
“As soon as I became aware of this heartbreaking matter I met with Sands to express my sincere regret and reassure them I will do everything in my power to find out how this happened.
“We now need to establish exactly what has gone on previously and how it was allowed to happen. We are already discussing with Sands some form of memorial as a mark of respect.”
The council has asked anyone with concerns to contact its phone line on 0131 200 2383.