Current Affairs

New cremation rules imposed in Mortonhall Crematorium aftermath

New rules state crematoriums in Scotland must hold on to cremated remains for at least four weeks following the Mortonhall Crematorium baby ashes scandal.

In 2013, it emerged that over four decades at least 250 babies were cremated at Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh and secretly buried resulting in hundreds of parents not knowing the final resting places of their children.

Some 64 recommendations were made to an independent commission, chaired by Lord Bonomy, that was tasked with creating new legislation. All recommendations were accepted by the Scottish government and the new rules will come into force in April.

Crematoriums must now hold on to cremated remains for at least four weeks and it must be assured that cremations only contain the remains of one person – except for in the case of a shared cremation. Records of where the remains were buried or scattered must also be kept for a minimum of 50 years – an increase of the current requirement of 15 years.

Giving evidence about the proposal to Holyrood’s Health Committee, Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “The regulations standardise cremation practices, putting in place clear and consistent processes at all cremations. They introduce new requirements on cremation authorities which are specifically designed to prevent unacceptable practices that we have seen in the past.

“Failure to comply with these requirements is an offence under the Burial and Cremations Scotland Act and for the very first time we will set out procedures and timescales for handling and dispersal of ashes. In line with Lord Bonomy’s recommendations, they increase record retention timescales from 15 years to 50 years, guaranteeing future traceability for families.”

He added: “The death of a loved one is – for most people – one of the most difficult experiences we will ever face. It is crucial, therefore, that when a person dies each agency or organisation involved at that time ensures they are respectful and sensitive to the wishes of the bereaved; maintaining the dignity of the deceased at all times.”

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