Mortonhall ashes scandal: crematoria all over Scotland could be dumping baby remains


CAMPAIGNERS have called for a nationwide investigation after it emerged crematoriums all over Scotland could be dumping the ashes of babies in unmarked graves.

Last week it was revealed council-run Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh had been disposing of the ashes of new and still borns in cardboard boxes for 45 years.

But support group SANDS Lothians, a neonatal and stillbirth charity, said it is likely families across the country have been subjected to the same sick treatment.


It was revealed that Mortonhall may not be the only crematorium disposing of baby remains in unmarked graves


Dorothy Maitland, both a victim of the scandal and worker at SANDS, said she has been contacted by parents who were also told there were no ashes to bury.

Industry professionals have now called for the creation of a new national policy regarding the care of remains for infant children after a funeral service.

Ms Maitland, operations manager at SANDS, first broke the news of Mortonhall’s practise following concerns flagged up by other worried parents who were told ‘You don’t get ashes from a baby’.

She herself had also been turned away by Mortonhall when she tied to collect the ashes of her daughter Kaelen (corr) 26 years ago.

She said: “We have been contacted by parents from other parts of the country who’ve had the same problem.

“I don’t think this will be limited to one crematorium. This needs to be investigated as a matter of urgency.

“Mums are distraught over this – I know one one who had to be hospitalised because of stress.

“She is adamant the main factor was not being able to get her baby’s ashes.”


Dorothy Maitland of SANDS, who uncovered the scandal. Dorothy herself was told there were no remains of her baby 26 years ago.


The startling realisations come to light as Edinburgh City Council pledged on Friday to make the full findings of their investigation known to the public.

On Friday it also emerged they took to the garden of the crematorium and marked out the mass graves of the deceased infants by spray painting the ground.

Ms Maitland added: “We’re at the moment just concentrating on speaking to the parents that have contacted us. We’re hoping that with our meeting on Thursday, we’ll be able to express to the council the families’ concerns and hopefully the council will carry out this investigation and somehow be able to offer some kind of explanation for us.”

The Scottish co-ordinator for SANDS, Ann McMurray, said: “There will be parents all over the UK asking questions as to what happened with the ashes of their dead children.

“We are meeting the council on Thursday and it is bound to be emotional.”

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, who said the scandal has revealed “decades of inhumanity”, believes council leaders will do everything in their power to carry out a complete investigation.

She said: “I haven’t spoken to anyone who hasn’t been shocked, and that’s the correct word to use. They’re so shocked that they can’t really think immediately on how they would respond.

“This has caused great unhappiness to the families affected.

“Everybody will be asking, rightly, where else has this happened if it has? It is important to establish this.”


“Swift report”

An industry-wide code of practice published by The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities is expected to be used as a reference point for the investigation.

The code states the “utmost care” should be taken with all cremated remains to make sure they are kept separate and identified.

It adds: “If the cremated remains are to be disposed of in a Garden of Remembrance, this shall be conducted with reverence and respect.”

Dominic Maguire from the National Association of funeral directors said: “There is a white paper currently being drawn up on a wide variety of issues surrounding burials.

“It would be a good time to include a unified policy for all crematoria to follow regarding the ashes of infant children.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, environment convenor for Edinburgh City Council, said she hoped a report from the investigation would be made public next month.

She said: “A key aim of this report will be to see what lessons can be learnt for the future and identify what is best practice.

“We want to be open and honest about the historic practices at Mortonhall Crematorium and I have asked for a swift report to establish the facts.”




  1. My daughter Gillian was stillborn on 2nd November 1986 and we were told that she would be buried in the garden of remembrance, I have visited the chapel every year for 26 years believing she was amongst other babies. It is the lies that are more heartrending, but my daughter is in my heart and will stay there.

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