A North-east MP hit out at the “culture of secrecy” surrounding the baby ashes scandal after a newly-published report claimed a senior judge was “misled” by Aberdeen council staff during the inquiry.
The probe was ordered in 2013 after it was revealed bodies of babies had been cremated with those of unrelated adults at Hazlehead Crematorium.
Independent investigator Richard Penn was commissioned to probe the council’s role in the affair after it emerged the ashes were given back to relatives of the adult, while the parents of infants were told there were no remnants of their loved ones.
Mr Penn completed his investigation last year, but his 76-page findings were not fully released to the public.
Last month, the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) ordered that the report be made public.
A heavily-redacted version was released late last night and reveals senior officers did not challenge claims by bosses at Hazlehead that infants did not produce any ashes until they were about two.
In his report, Mr Penn, said: “The PwC team had clearly not been given the correct information about the processes in place at Aberdeen Crematorium.
“It was also clear that Lord Bonomy had been misled by those Aberdeen City Council staff who met with him and his team during the Infant Cremation Commission’s visit to Aberdeen Crematorium.”
There will undoubtedly be a negative perception that senior management have tried to brush this under the carpet, and that there has been a culture of secrecy around this issue.
Ross Thomson, Scottish Conservative MP for Aberdeen South, said: “I have called from the outset for complete transparency from the council to restore confidence among parents and the wider public about practices at Hazlehead.
“There will undoubtedly be a negative perception that senior management have tried to brush this under the carpet, and that there has been a culture of secrecy around this issue.
“It is very concerning to hear allegations that the senior judge leading the inquiry may have been misled by staff at the crematorium.
“It is also worrying that the version of events presented by those in charge was not challenged internally.
“However, the council has since taken significant measures since the scandal to improve practices at the crematorium.
“That should be welcomed, and I hope that lessons have been learned at all levels to avoid anything of this nature happening again.”
Aberdeen City Council says the crematorium operations at Hazlehead have been “transformed” since the issues were discovered.
A council spokesman said: “Over the past few years operations at the crematorium have been transformed and there is now an open and inclusive ethos where staff are encouraged to contribute and challenge.
“Every crematorium staff member is a qualified cremator technician certified to carry out infant and baby cremations.
“Those improvements do not in any way compensate for the pain suffered by those affected by past practices, but are an indication of the comprehensive measures taken to address the issues identified.”