Mortonhall ashes: Council issues action plan

AN ACTION plan detailing what will be done to ensure there is no repeat of the baby ashes scandal at Mortonhall crematorium has been released by Edinburgh City Council.

The action plan will ensure there is no repeat of what happened at Mortonhall. Picture: Greg Macvean
The action plan will ensure there is no repeat of what happened at Mortonhall. Picture: Greg Macvean
The action plan will ensure there is no repeat of what happened at Mortonhall. Picture: Greg Macvean

It follows widespread anger expressed after it emerged that hundreds of foetuses, stillborn and young babies had been cremated and their ashes scattered at the crematorium in Edinburgh without the knowledge of their parents.

Families had been told it was not possible to recover ashes from such young babies.

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The new measures include a review of how the city’s Mortonhall crematorium is managed and a change of culture and attitude at the crematorium towards providing services to next of kin.

It also states that staff there should be made aware of the council’s whistleblowing policy.

Setting up memorials to honour the babies is also being examined. Discussions will take place with bereaved families on suitable designs and to find an appropriate site in the area.

Andrew Burns, council leader, stressed each recommendation would be the responsibility of a named council official, including Sue Bruce, council chief executive, and include a list of actions to be taken.

The report follows the Mortonhall investigation commissioned by Ms Bruce in January 2013 and led by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini QC which made 22 main recommendations in April.

Some recommendations are aimed at the council while others are directed towards the Scottish Government, NHS Lothian or other agencies.

The plans will be considered at a special council meeting next Thursday where councillors will question officials on implementing the plan.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Burns repeated an apology to families caught up in the scandal. He said: “I want to repeat my absolute heartfelt apology to the parents who have been affected by this issue. I am very grateful for the manner in which the families have engaged with us and the way they’ve handled the process.”

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He added: “Their experiences will undoubtedly lead to UK-wide changes in legislation. They deserve huge credit for that.”

Lesley Hinds, environment convener, said there needed to be constant scrutiny to make sure everyone involved carried out the recommendations.

“The key is to make sure we deliver all the recommendations that came from the report.

“We need to make sure that this doesn’t happen to any parents and families in the future. I am sure we have got a good service there but we need to keep reviewing it, keep scrutinising it and get the best service possible, and ensure the Scottish Government delivers what’s in the recommendations.”

Sara Fitzsimmons, of Simpson’s Memory Box Appeal who was a member of the working group compiling the recommen-dations, said: “The action plan is working towards something very positive for the parents. It’s a legacy to the babies and families affected by Mortonhall.”

It was announced on Tuesday that a national investigation team will look into cases of baby cremation across Scotland after ministers accepted recommendations by Lord Bonomy after an inquiry into the issue.