Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Compensation for Fife families affected by baby ashes scandal

Dunfermline crematorium Image copyright Google
Image caption Dunfermline Crematorium and Kirkcaldy Crematorium are operated by Fife Council

Families affected by the baby ashes scandal at council-run crematoria in Fife are to receive compensation payments of up to £4,000.

The payments will be made after parents were wrongly told their babies were too small for their ashes to be recovered.

In fact, staff at crematoria in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy disposed of the children's ashes anonymously, sometimes in the waste.

Fife Council said it apologised unreservedly to the families.

Campaigners estimate that more than 450 families across Scotland were affected by the baby ashes scandal.

Inquiries into the scandal led to apologies and changes in the law.

Councils including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow have already agreed compensation, now Fife council has followed suit with a similar scheme.

Thompsons Solicitors, who represent eight of the families involved, said the agreement was "of huge significance to the parents affected".

Solicitor Catherine McGarrell added: "It has been a long, emotional journey for the parents but this does provide some small comfort."

She also welcomed moves by the council to engage with families over a permanent memorial to the children.

'Good faith'

Ms McGarrell added: "The agreement of Fife Council to this compensation scheme is of huge significance to the parents affected.

"The amounts of money involved are of a far lesser importance than the sign of good faith shown by the local authority.

"The council have backed up their public apology with real action which is welcomed by my clients. "

A memorial to the families affected by the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal was unveiled on Saturday in Edinburgh.

Alan Paul, a senior manager with Fife Council, said: "We have apologised unreservedly to families who were affected by our past practices and recognise the harm and distress that it caused."

"As documented, some infants' ashes were unrecovered from the chamber and we have changed our practices to avoid this happening again.

"We previously invited families to discuss a specific memorial to their infants and have just this week received some ideas from their representatives, which we will be discussing in due course."

Families affected can come forward for compensation until the scheme closes on 1 March.

Timeline: The baby ashes scandal

  • December 2012: Charity reveals ashes of hundreds of stillborn babies had been buried without parents' knowledge at Mortonhall in Edinburgh for more than 40 years.
  • April 2013: A BBC Scotland investigation revealed that Aberdeen's Hazlehead Crematorium did not return ashes for babies up to 18 months old. A week later BBC Scotland reported at least two babies' ashes were disposed of secretly in Glasgow. An audit was later published covering cases at Linn and Daldowie crematoriums and the council apologised. An Infant Cremation Commission is established.
  • May-August 2014: Aberdeen and Glasgow change their child cremation processes while a report into practices is published by Lord Bonomy. In August Hazlehead Crematorium superintendent Derek Snow loses his job.
  • 2015: Families affected by the scandal at Mortonhall are offered settlements of up to £4,000 by the City of Edinburgh Council. A memorial garden is opened at Mortonhall.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Baby ashes were buried in secret at Mortonhall for more than 40 years
  • June- August 2016: A report by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini says "unethical and abhorrent practices" went on in Aberdeen for many years despite a 2014 council investigation reporting no evidence of wrongdoing. Crematoria in Glasgow and Fife are also mentioned in the report as having misled parents. Nine cases are found between Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline. Fife Council issues an apology.
  • March 2018: Fife Council is accused of being "heartless" as it has not compensated all parents caught up in the scandal, or erected a dedicated memorial for 13 local infants - measures adopted by other Scottish local authorities.
  • September 2018: Compensation paid out by Aberdeen City Council totals £360,000.
  • February 2019: An elephant memorial is erected to the children of the Mortonhall scandal. No criminal proceedings have been carried out against Edinburgh, Glasgow or Fife crematoria.

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