Mortonhall: Fresh calls for public inquiry

BEREAVED Mortonhall parents have demanded that a full public inquiry be set up to look into the scandal after the Scottish Government announced a commission to review legislation surrounding the cremation of remains.

Parents were told by Mortonhall Crematorium that there were no ashes to scatter. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said the new legislation would “ensure that similar incidents could never happen again”.

However, whilst welcoming this latest development, parents and campaigners have again reiterated their belief that only a full public inquiry can provide the answers they seek.

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Dorothy Maitland, of bereavement charity Sands Lothian, said: “I welcome the setting up of this commission as it is important that the government recognise that these practices took place in crematoriums throughout Scotland.

“However, I feel for most parents a public inquiry is still what’s most needed.”

This was echoed by Madelaine Cave, the ex-wife of a former US consul general to Scotland, whose daughter, Meghan, was cremated at Mortonhall in 1994, after dying at just 15 days old.

She said: “While I welcome updating the legislation, existing laws were broken and they are quite clear – cremation authorities are only responsible for the disposal of ashes following cremation if they are not wanted by the person who applied for the cremation.

“To date there have been a few apologies but no acceptance of responsibility, just the blaming of outdated legislation and technical issues and I would still like to see a full public inquiry. Most of all, I am still waiting to hear what happened to my daughter’s ashes.”

Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee chair Willie Reid said: “This is still short of a public inquiry and will not look at individual cases from throughout Scotland. MAAC will still fight for a public inquiry and lobby the government for it.”

Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale also refused to back down in demanding an inquiry.

She said: “The thing I don’t like about the commission is I don’t see how it’s going to ensure that 
parents’ voices are heard. It’s those parents whose lives are currently devastated, it’s those parents that want justice and it’s those parents who want a public inquiry.

“The difference between what the government have announced and a public inquiry is the ability to call witnesses. With a public inquiry, the chair of that, who is usually a judge, would be able to say ‘you have to give evidence before this committee and you have to do so under oath’. A commission simply doesn’t have that power.”