Law change to avoid baby ashes scandal repeat

LAWS governing the handling of cremated ashes are being urgently reviewed – on the back of the Evening News probe into the Mortonhall scandal.

Public Health Minister Michael Matheson has confirmed the Scottish Government is looking at updating laws surrounding cremations, some of which are more than 100 years old.

The move comes after we revealed how parents of new and stillborn babies cremated at Mortonhall Crematorium were told there were no ashes to collect. They were later buried without parents’ knowledge.

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Earlier this month, senior QC Dame Elish Angiolini was appointed to lead an independent inquiry into practices at Mortonhall and across the country.

Answering a question from Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Matheson said: “With regards to the wider issues around guidance and regulations for cremations, we have already given a commitment to look at those issues in the coming year with a view to bringing forward

further legislation, possibly into 2014, in order to update some of the laws in this area, some of which are over 100 years old. There’s already been some work undertaken in order to look at areas where we need to make further improvements.”

The scandal was uncovered by child bereavement charity Sands Lothians – which has been given £30,000 of government funding to help it with its vital work.

Mr Matheson said: “I asked officials to explore what assistance we may be able to give Sands given the exceptional circumstances involved. As a result, the Scottish Government has been able to provide the charity with some one-off funding to support their work with those affected by the former practices at Mortonhall Crematorium.”

Edinburgh City Council has likewise offered financial


Dorothy Maitland, operations manager at Sands, welcomed the news of a proposed change in the law and said that legislation must reflect the changing attitude towards stillborn babies in recent years.

She added: “I’m very glad to hear that the law surrounding cremation is to be looked at. What has gone at Mortonhall is an issue of national importance.”