Mortonhall ashes probe will not look at past cases

A national investigation into the baby ashes scandal will not examine what went wrong in recent decades in crematoriums across the country, it was confirmed today.
Mortonhall Crematorium & Cemetery. Picture: TSPLMortonhall Crematorium & Cemetery. Picture: TSPL
Mortonhall Crematorium & Cemetery. Picture: TSPL

It emerged in December that babies’ ashes had been scattered in Edinburgh without the knowledge of their parents, with further cases coming to light in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Falkirk.

Parents have called for a public inquiry into what went wrong around the country, but a commission being headed by former Dunblane inquiry judge Lord Bonomy will have a different remit, the Scottish Government today said.

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The full membership of the commission includes campaigner Ann McMurray from SANDS UK, along with council, crematorium and NHS officials.

It will look at the current law, as well as the policies and guidance on disposing of ashes following the cremation of babies, as well as making recommendations for improvements.

But the commission won’t go into historic cases - instead it will advise local councils which choose to carry out their own local inquiries into these.

The commission held its first meeting yesterday and issued a call for bereaved parents and staff to come forward, as well as councils and crematorium staff.

Lord Bonomy said: “Although the membership of the Commission has been drawn from those with experience of the issues arising, the success of the Commission’s work is very much dependent upon the engagement and support of members of the public, particularly those affected by the trauma of infant death. We invite all who feel they can assist our work to do so by sending us their submissions in writing by July 19.”

Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson said: “I am pleased that Lord Bonomy and the members of the Commission have accepted the remit and can begin this important work. I believe that we now have the opportunity to make some real, positive changes, and the work and recommendations of the Commission will inform new legislation ensuring that these sort of incidents can never happen again.”

The aim of the commission is to ensure that parents and other bereaved relatives can get “clear and consistent” advice in future about the disposal of such remains and have their wishes adhered to, with any remains treated “sensitively and compassionately.”

The full membership Commission is John Birrell of NHS Bereavement Coordinators, James Blackburn from the National Association of Funeral Directors and Ian Kearns from Inverclyde Council.

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It also includes Helena MacLaren from the Miscarriage Association, Ann McMurray from SANDS UK, Tim Morris from the Institute of Cemetery and Crematoria Management, Gillian Morton, Head of Midwifery at NHS Forth Valley, Rick Powell from the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities, Garrick Smyth from COSLA and Gavin Stevenson, Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council.