Mortonhall ashes: Edinburgh council boss quits

Mark Turley, who has stepped down from his position. Picture: TSPLMark Turley, who has stepped down from his position. Picture: TSPL
Mark Turley, who has stepped down from his position. Picture: TSPL
A SENIOR official at Edinburgh City Council has resigned following the publication of a damning report into systematic failures which led to the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal.

Mark Turley, director of the council’s community services department, denied any wrongdoing in the scandal, but said leaving his post was the “honourable” thing to do.

The council said Mr Turley was leaving his £123,000-a-year position with its “best wishes”, but it refused to comment on whether its former employee had received a pay-off.

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An investigation into Mr Turley, who was at the helm of the department involved in the baby ashes scandal, has now been closed, the council said.

His department was in charge of Mortonhall Crematorium which was condemned for burying baby ashes in secret.

Mr Turley was suspended in May following the publication of a long-awaited report by the former Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, which said that parents faced “a lifetime of uncertainty” about their babies’ final resting place.

His department was also responsible for the maintenance of council buildings and was under pressure following the death of schoolgirl Keane Wallace-Bennett, who was killed when a wall fell on her at Liberton High School earlier this year.

Dame Elish’s 11-month investigation into Mortonhall found systematic failings in the running of the Edinburgh crematorium.

In a statement released through the council yesterday, Mr Turley said: “Whilst I do not believe I personally contributed to any wrongdoing at Mortonhall crematorium, as the director with ultimate accountability I believe it is right that I do the honourable thing in recognition of working practices at Mortonhall as criticised in Dame Elish Angiolini’s recent report. I have therefore asked the chief executive to accept my resignation.”

Published in April, Dame Elish’s report found evidence that not only had bones survived the cremation process, but that there had been “extensive” mixing of the remains of babies with that of adults.

It was also likely that the ashes of babies had been “hoov-ered up” during cleaning of the cremator and flues, and later interred in a piece of land next to a skip, the report said.

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Since the Mortonhall scandal emerged, concerns have been raised about crematoriums in Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Dorothy Maitland, whose baby daughter Kaelen was cremated at Mortonhall 25 years ago, first uncovered the problems at Mortonhall.

Ms Maitland, operations manager at the charity Sands Lothian, said she was “saddened” by Mr Turley’s resignation.

“As management at the top of the tree, he has to carry the buck, but he has been made a bit of a scapegoat,” she said.

Commenting on Mr Turley’s departure, Sue Bruce, the council’s chief executive, said: “Mark has made a significant contribution to this council and to the city over the past 20 years, in particular in relation to the provision of housing. I respect the decision he has taken.”


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