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Mortonhall Crematorium baby ashes report due

Mortonhall Crematorium with the large cross in the Garden of Remembrance. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Mortonhall Crematorium with the large cross in the Garden of Remembrance. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

  • by CHRIS MARSHALL
 

A LONG-awaited report into the Mortonhall ashes scandal could leave families with more unanswered questions, parents fear.

The findings of an investigation by former lord advocate Dame Elish Angiolini are ­expected to be published on Wednesday.

The report, which is understood to run to about 600 ­pages, has already caused controversy after it emerged City of Edinburgh Council had taken receipt of it on 14 April without informing parents.

Some parents who thought their baby’s ashes were buried at the Edinburgh crematorium now believe the report may cast doubt over that.

The scandal emerged in ­December 2012, when it was revealed that the crematorium had buried or scattered the ashes of babies for decades without parents’ knowledge.

Hundreds of parents are ­believed to have been told there were no ashes to scatter, only for their child’s ashes to be buried in a garden of remembrance. It is thought the practice was carried out from 1967 until 2011.

Last year, Angiolini was asked to lead the investigation into the disposal of ashes. A copy of her report will be ­delivered to the families concerned by courier on Wednesday before being made public later that day.

Dorothy Maitland, operations director of the Stillborn and Neonatal Death Society (Sands) Lothians, and one of the affected parents, said it was a “distinct possibility” that some of those who thought their child’s ashes were buried would be left in doubt as to whether that was the case.

She said: “There will be a lot of parents who may not get any answers. We don’t know where it’s going to leave us.

“There will be a lot of parents who will want a public inquiry after this, but I would like to see what’s in the report before I decide which road to go down. There are a lot of people who are going to need a lot of support through this.”

Parents were devastated by the decision last year not to charge anyone after Police Scotland said there was “no basis” for a ­prosecution.

However, families which formed the Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee (Macc) have previously said they will continue to fight for a public ­inquiry.

Earlier this week, Edinburgh city council was criticised after it emerged Angiolini’s report had been handed to the local authority without the families’ knowledge.

Patrick McGuire, from Thompsons Solicitors, who represents many of the families involved, said they were “stunned” to learn of the development through the media.

Maitland added: “It was a bit distressing to find out from the press. The council will have had the report for two-and-a-half weeks before the publication date, while the parents will have three hours before its made public.”

It has also emerged that parts of the report may be ­redacted to protect the council from legal challenges under data protection laws.

Sue Bruce, chief executive of Edinburgh city council, said the report would be “wide-ranging”.

She added: “It was important that the council considered issues around the protection of sensitive personal data prior to publication.

“Due to the length of the report, we expect to publish it on Wednesday with parents receiving a personal copy that morning, ahead of wider ­publication.”

A separate commission on infant cremation, which was set up by the Scottish Government and is chaired by Lord Bonomy, is expected to report later in the year.

 

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