Aberdeen City Council’s chief executive Angela Scott has apologised to parents who did not receive their baby’s ashes.
During a press conference at Aberdeen’s Beach Ballroom, Mrs Scott said: “It cannot be overestimated how much anguish and hurt parents have experienced due to past practices at Aberdeen Crematorium.
“On behalf of Aberdeen City Council, I apologise unreservedly to those parents who did not receive their baby’s ashes, and to the relatives affected by the practice, ended in 2012, of placing baby coffins in the cremator alongside adult coffins.
“The loss of a baby is devastating for parents and their families, and we are deeply sorry for the extra distress our past actions have caused.”
Mrs Scott said she fully concurred with Dame Elish Angiolini’s view that some past practices at Aberdeen Crematorium were “abhorrent and unethical”.
She also pledged to personally ensure that each recommendation set out in the report would be addressed and all necessary actions taken in Aberdeen.
The National Cremation Investigation Report criticised Aberdeen City Council senior management for letting years of malpractice go on unnoticed.
It recommended: “The most senior level of management at Aberdeen must provide strong leadership and now take full responsibility for the effective management of the crematorium.
“It must also ensure that immediate and appropriate training takes place and that effective and ethical practices are maintained.
“This relates not only to a change of working practices but to an assurance that the culture of the organisation and the knowledge and understanding is such as to prevent any future abuse of the trust of those families who have placed the remains of their loved ones in their care.”
Mrs Scott said the council would work hard to ensure this trust could be regained.
She said: “Families and friends have the right to expect the highest standards from Aberdeen City Council when dealing with their loved ones and I fully appreciate that many people will feel hurt and aggrieved by our past actions.”
Mrs Scott highlighted that Derek Snow, the crematorium manager during the period of historic practice, had been dismissed by Aberdeen City Council in 2014.
She also revealed that two other members of staff, who liaised with Lord Bonomy’s inquiry, were also subject to an internal investigation but that no action was taken against them.
She added: “Whilst Aberdeen City Council accepts full responsibility, senior management placed reliance on an individual who had an established reputation and all appropriate qualifications.”
She also admitted that the scope of the audit undertaken by the council’s external auditor in 2013 was not “appropriate to the particular circumstances”.
Mrs Scott recalled how on June 9, 2014, just as Lord Bonomy’s Infant Cremation Commission was almost at the end of its investigation, she received a serious anonymous allegation regarding practices at Hazlehead Crematorium.
This letter related to babies being cremated with adults.
She said the council immediately advised the commission about the letter.
The national investigation team was established later that month.
Mrs Scott stressed that several actions had already been put in place to ensure better practices and culture at the city’s crematorium.
She added: “Management arrangements have been reviewed and oversight of crematorium practices has been improved with a new manager taking responsibility for all crematorium and bereavement services, giving a much more joined-up approach.
“We have new practices and procedures in place including how we train staff and will look further at the investigation’s recommendations to see what else can be done.”
Mrs Scott said it was clear from the national investigation report that the culture within the team was one where “historic working practices” went unchallenged.
She added: “As chief executive of Aberdeen City Council, I view it as my personal responsibility to create the right atmosphere of trust, openness and transparency across the organisation and have been focused on doing that since taking up my post in July 2014.
“It is incumbent upon me to reflect on the findings of the national investigation and consider whether there is any further action I need to take.”
Mrs Scott said a dedicated helpline to support families had been opened and could be reached on 01224 522255.