Proposed designs for Mortonhall memorials revealed

Designs for potential Mortonhall memorials have been revealed in a new report by the City of Edinburgh Council.

Mortonhall memorial In line with parents’ wishes two memorials are being proposed, one at Mortonhall Crematorium, and another at a location still to be identified in the city.

The draft designs are detailed in the Mortonhall Action Plan: Update report which will be discussed by the City of Edinburgh Council next week (Thursday 05 February).

The report also outlines the progress made by the Mortonhall Multi-Agency Working Group which was set up by the Council to take forward the recommendations set out in Dame Elish Angiolini’s Mortonhall Investigation Report.

That report was commissioned by City of Edinburgh Council to investigate practices involving infant cremations at Mortonhall Crematorium, and findings were published in April 2014. A further report by Lord Bonomy, on behalf of the Scottish Government, was published in June 2014 and made national recommendations on these issues.

The multi-agency working group, chaired by Sue Bruce, Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh Council, has met six times and made positive progress on all of the recommendations.

These include: immediate improvements in record keeping including adopting the nationally agreed definition of what constitutes ashes, consistent use of cremation trays, and positive dialogue with affected parents around memorials.

The Council has been working with SANDS Lothian, SiMBA, MACC and affected parents since the summer of 2014 on suitable ideas for a memorial. Parents have been consulted over potential sites and a number of those affected selected Mortonhall as the preferred option.

However, the group also acknowledged that some families expressed strongly that that they did not wish to return to Mortonhall so it has been agreed an additional site would be identified elsewhere in the city.

The Mortonhall Multi-Agency Working Group has been working closely with independent garden landscape designers to develop a range of initial design options, on which parents are being asked to give their views. The designers have waived their initial consultation fees in support of this project.

Sue Bruce said: “I am personally very encouraged with the progress made by the working group in dealing with both Dame Elish and Lord Bonomy’s recommendations. I would like to pay tribute to the willingness of all the participants, especially the parent representatives, for all their efforts.

“I’d also like to acknowledge my appreciation of the ongoing contribution in various forms from all affected parents. This continuing dialogue will ensure that we continue to focus on their needs.

“We now have potential memorial designs and we are asking the parents to consider which ones they would like us to take forward. We want to make sure the designs reflect their wishes and I would ask families to let us know their thoughts.

“The families’ dedicated campaigning has made a major contribution to the Council’s action plan and the Infant Cremation Commission report by Lord Bonomy which will result in legislative change across Scotland.

“We will continue our work on the group to ensure that nothing like this can happen again and that the highest possible standards are adhered to at Mortonhall.”

Sara Fitzsimmons, Executive Charity Director of SiMBA, has been a member of the multi-agency group since it first met last year.

She said: “Sitting on the group has reassured me that parents’ views and considerations are first and foremost throughout all discussions. You can see the progress being made implementing Dame Elish’s recommendations, one of those being the memorials. It was the parents’ decision that there should be one at Mortonhall and a second one away from the grounds.

“A sub group was set up so the voices of parents who chose to be involved at this time could be heard and their suggestions have been included in the proposed garden designs. It’s really good to see this progressing and for the first memorial to be completed this year – a tangible place for parents and their families.”

The multi-agency group consists of representatives from the Scottish Government, NHS Lothian, SANDS Lothian, Sands UK, SiMBA, Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee, funeral directors, Edinburgh Crematorium Ltd and council officials.

The Mortonhall Investigation report was commissioned by Sue Bruce on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council in January 2013 after concerns were raised about practices at the crematorium. The remit was to establish the facts regarding practices relating to the cremation of babies at Mortonhall Crematorium and to learn lessons that will ensure best practice for the future.

Dame Elish interviewed bereaved families, current and former members of crematorium staff, representatives from funeral directors, staff from other crematoria, support groups and health professionals and took opinion from experts in the field of human anthropology, law and forensic accountancy. The report, with annexes, extends to over 600 pages in total.

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