Matheson responds to Bonomy report

National Investigation to examine individual ashes cases.

All parents with unanswered questions about the cremation of their baby will be able to have their case examined as part of a National Investigation.

Public Health Minister and Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson told the Scottish Parliament that the government would establish a National Investigation team, led by Dame Elish Angiolini, as he set out the response to the Infant Cremation Commission report.

Last year, the Infant Cremation Commission was set up to investigate practices across Scotland’s crematoria and make recommendations for government and other organisations to take forward.

It has produced 64 recommendations and Mr Matheson confirmed the Scottish Government will accept them all, including:

Setting up an Inspector of Crematoria to monitor working practices at crematoria across Scotland, with the option to extend inspections to the funeral industry after legislative powers are granted.

Implementing the legislative changes recommended by the Infant Cremation Commission in a new Burials and Cremation Bill, which will go out for public consultation by the end of 2014.

Defining ashes in the Burials and Cremation Bill as ‘all that is left in the cremator and the end of the cremation process’ ensuring all crematoria are following the same practices.

Establishing a National Committee, chaired by the Scottish Government and including representation from parents, to take forward the recommendations. The National Committee will hold its first meeting no later than Autumn 2014 and develop a national Code of Practice for individuals involved in the cremation process.

Asking local authorities to consider the option for local memorials, where there is a desire from parents to have one. The National Committee will also look at the options for a national memorial dedicated to the babies whose ashes were mishandled or mismanaged and will discuss this with affected parents and bereavement support groups

Mr Matheson said: “What the Commission’s report tells us is that there are variable practices across the country and in many cases, in the past, the interests of the baby and the bereaved family have not always been put first.

“Both the Mortonhall Investigation and the Cremation Commission report are important stepping stones towards resolving this and providing much-needed answers.

“The Infant Cremation Commission has made important recommendations to ensure that never again will any parent have to experience the pain of not knowing what happened to their baby’s ashes.

“However, I am acutely aware that for many parents, including those I recently met in Falkirk, questions remain about what happened in the past and that some still want their individual cases looked at. The Edinburgh Investigation provided this for the families affected by Mortonhall, and I believe that every family must have this same opportunity.

“This why we have decided to set up a National Investigation that will be taken forward by Dame Elish and I am grateful that she agreed to lead this work for us.

“I know how difficult this has been for all the families involved, however the last eighteen months of investigation will ensure we can go forward confident that this situation will never be able to happen again.”