The long-serving boss of Aberdeen Crematorium has been suspended amid a major investigation into the disposal of baby ashes.
The Press and Journal understands superintendent Derek Snow was temporarily removed from his post following the announcement of a fresh inquiry into practices at the Hazlehead facility.
Mr Snow, who has been in charge for decades, declined to comment when contacted at his home in Aberdeenshire yesterday.
But solicitors representing north-east families who have been caught up in the scandal claimed last night that the move was a sign the local authority was accepting “serious mismanagement” had taken place.
Aberdeen City Council’s chief executive Angela Scott announced last month that a new probe would be launched after an allegation surfaced that remains of infants and adults were cremated together.
The decision to re-examine working practices was taken less than a year after a separate inquiry found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Aberdeen was originally implicated in the fallout from a scandal which hit Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh, where ashes of babies were disposed of without the knowledge of parents.
Patrick McGuire, a partner with Thompsons Solicitors, which represents a number of affected north-east families said: “The decision to suspend a senior figure involved in running Hazelhead Crematorium is yet another example of Aberdeen City Council recognising that serious mismanagement was taking place under their watch at the facility.
“But yet while the council is prepared to act by suspending senior staff it continues to be evasive and obstructive in its dealings with the families whose children’s ashes were disposed of in this disgraceful way.
“Its time for the council to do the right thing and show a far more open and compassionate approach to all the families involved.”
A city council spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on individual staffing matters.”
Former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini is leading a nationwide investigation in an effort to find out what happened to every baby who was cremated at several facilities across the country, including Aberdeen.
The National Investigation Unit will examine local authority and private crematoria, the NHS and funeral directors.
The investigation was announced after the Infant Cremation Commission, led by senior judge Lord Bonomy, made 60 recommendations aimed at avoiding “repetition of past failures”.
The council spokeswoman said the authority was “waiting to be informed” by Dame Elish and her investigation team of the dates when they will be visiting Aberdeen.
She added: “The council will of course co-operate fully with Dame Elish and her investigation team.
“It is not Aberdeen City Council’s intention to duplicate the national investigation.”
The previous city council audit, carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers in January last year, found the remains of children aged five or under had been scattered in the Garden of Remembrance.
Auditors were unable to check if families had been consulted in 40 instances dating back to 1984.
The report also found there were no cases in the past five years in which ashes had existed but were not returned.
Former council leader Barney Crockett said at the time that the authority’s procedures were “sound”.
The city council announced in May the ashes of all babies cremated in the city were now being recovered and returned to parents.