The Scottish Government has confirmed that individuals involved in the retention of baby ashes at crematoria across Scotland will not be expected to give evidence to the Commission.
The revelation came through a series of written parliamentary questions tabled by Shadow Health Minister Jackie Baillie MSP, which also questioned the Government on issues around a public inquiry and policies on handling ashes and cremated remains. The Scottish Government recently announced a Commission would be set up to examine legislation around crematoria following the baby ash scandal which came to light in December last year.
Among his answers Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson stated that: “A full public inquiry would be likely to take several years to complete its work, which would delay indefinitely current plans to update existing burial and cremation legislation and might also possibly delay the implementation of any new guidance.” He also highlighted that specific incidents or allegations should be investigated by the relevant cremation authority or the police raising concerns about the independence of this investigation and around the fact Police Scotland has confirmed it will no longer be investigating reports made to it concerning Mortonhall in Edinburgh.
Thompsons acts for many of the bereaved parents who are fighting for answers as to what happened to their deceased baby’s ashes. Partner Patrick McGuire said: “It would appear that the Minister is now suggesting that a public inquiry is not the route to establishing the much needed truth around the baby ash scandal but has instead facilitated a flawed model which does not have the scope to deliver the answers. A public inquiry is the only way each and every question will be answered and the only way of ensuring the slightest chance of restoring damaged confidence. The families believed it when they were told there were no ashes; they trusted the Minister when he said the commission would deliver - now the only solution is an inquiry.”
Mr McGuire continued: “The rules in relation to inquiries are the product of the current Government which has in the past stood beside groups and demanded public inquiries. Are they now saying these rules are flawed? If not then surely it begs the question of why the victims of this scandal are less deserving than others.”
Shadow Health Minister Jackie Baillie MSP said: “The priority should be to make sure bereaved parents never again have to deal with the horror of not knowing what has happened to the ashes of their much loved children.
“However this Commission is not going far enough in looking for answers as to why these practices occurred in the first place, why proper monitoring of crematoria was not undertaken, how far spread the practice was and most importantly what happened to these children’s remains.
“I believe the Scottish Government is failing the parents caught up in this scandal and I urge them to re-think the Commission’s remit immediately to ensure answers are found.”
The Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee and Glasgow Answers for Ashes Parents have set up a petition calling on First Minister Alex Salmond and Councilor Lesley Hinds to hold a public inquiry into the handling of baby ashes. During First Minister’s Questions last week in response to a question from Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson, the First Minister stated that should there be benefits to bereaved parents, he would look at it.
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