National Investigation Into Ashes Scandal

18 June 2014, 06:20

A new national investigation team has been set up in Scotland to help bereaved parents find out what happened to their children's remains in the wake of the baby ashes scandal.

Scottish public health minister Michael Matheson announced the establishment of the independent team, which will be led by former top prosecutor Dame Elish Angiolini.

He said: ''Parents can be reassured every step will be taken in order to find out what happened to their babies.''

Mr Matheson also pledged new laws would be brought in to improve the handling of baby ashes in Scotland.

He addressed Holyrood after a new report made more than 60 recommendations to help ''avoid repetition of past failures''.

The Scottish Government has accepted ''in full, and without reservation'' the 64 suggestions for change that were put forward by former High Court judge Lord Bonomy who chaired the independent Infant Cremation Commission.

The commission, which was established more than a year ago to look at the practice of infant cremation in Scotland and how ashes are disposed of, came in the wake of revelations that Edinburgh's Mortonhall Crematorium had secretly buried the ashes of babies for decades without the knowledge of their families.

Other local authorities have subsequently been implicated.

Mr Matheson told MSPs Dame Elish, a former Lord Advocate, had agreed to lead the new national investigation team.

All parents who have been left with unanswered questions about the cremation of their baby will be able to have their case examined.

Mr Matheson said: ''Dame Elish and her team will be able to look at every document and every record, they will interview every concerned family and will expect to speak to any officials or staff members who may hold information.''

''They will be able to investigate cremations in local authority crematoria and in private crematoria. They will be able to look at the NHS, at funeral directors as well as crematoria. Parents can be reassured every step will be taken in order to find out what happened to their babies.''

After claims last week that babies had been cremated alongside adults at Hazelhead Crematoria in Aberdeen, Mr Matheson said: ''I believe there is now particular concern about practices at Hazlehead crematoria. Accordingly Dame Elish has agreed that her investigation will look more broadly at practice there.

''If issues emerge in the course of the Investigation about other crematoria, then these too will be interrogated.''

He said the publication of today's report, as well as an earlier report by Dame Elish into the Mortonhall ashes scandal were ''significant stepping stones''.

But Mr Matheson stressed: ''There is much still to be done. There are new laws to make. There are procedures and processes to update. And there are individual cases and crematoria which we will now investigate.

''Sadly some parents will never know what happened to their children, but I hope that those parents will recognise that we will do all that we can for them to get the answers that are available.

''I hope all parents will recognise the important legacy of the last eighteen months is that this will never be able to happen again.''