Kirk pledges support for families affected by baby ashes scandal
The Church of Scotland has vowed to do whatever it can to support families affected by revelations that baby ashes were scattered without the parents' permission.
An independent inquiry found that 40 sets of ashes had been scattered in a remembrance garden in Aberdeen with the possibility that the the parents were unaware the remains of their child even existed.
According to the Scottish Daily Record, auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers were unable to confirm that the parents of young children cremated at Aberdeen's Hazelhead Crematorium between 1984 and 1985 had given their permission as the paperwork no longer existed.
The Aberdeen revelations follow the Mortonhall scandal in Edinburgh, where it emerged last year that the remains of babies had been secretly buried by staff at the council-run crematorium without the consent of the families.
The Edinburgh Evening News reported last December that bosses at Mortonhall Crematorium had over the last 45 years, told grieving parents that there would be nothing to scatter following the cremation of their children. However, it was revealed that the ashes of babies who were stillborn or who had died within days of birth were kept by the crematorium and buried in a mass unmarked grave in cardboard boxes. The exact number of babies' ashes dumped by the crematorium is unknown.
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Lorna Hood, expressed her thanks to Lord Bonomy for his work chairing a Scottish Government independent commission into the cremation of babies across Scotland.
In her letter to Lord Bonomy, she said the Church of Scotland would do anything it could to help affected families come to terms with what had happened.
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Mrs Hood was formerly a chaplain at the Royal Alexandria Hospital where her work involved pastoral support of women and families who had lost babies during pregnancy or shortly after birth.
"As part of this work, I passed onto grieving families, in good faith, information that I had been given that no ashes remained after an infant cremation. This was also the general understanding of hospital staff. Some parents chose a burial when they heard this," she said.
"I have really struggled to understand why there was this alleged cover-up and have been distressed to read of the situation in Mortonhall and Glasgow. In my experience everyone in an infant death – medical staff, undertakers and crematorium staff – has shown always the utmost sensitivity."
The commission has been tasked with developing a consistent approach for the disposal of ashes following the cremation of infants.
A separate inquiry is being led by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini into practices at Mortonhall Crematorium.
Mrs Hood added: "The Church of Scotland will do anything it can to facilitate people coming to terms with what many of us find inexplicable."