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Q&A on Dame Elish Angiolini Report into National Cremation Investigation

Why couldn't Aberdeen Crematorium collect ashes from baby cremations when some other places could?

Other crematoriums used trays to hold baby coffins, and ACC stopped using them about 30 years ago, we believe, due to health and safety reasons for staff. Since this came to light, we have reviewed our processes and now use trays for all cases. Aberdeen Crematorium has recovered ashes from all cremations where a tray has been used.

Why did ACC state in previous years there were no baby ashes?

They were not recoverable previously because the former cremation process (i.e. without a cremation tray) reduced baby ashes to such an extent that ashes were not recoverable when raked down to the ash recovery pan. The use of a tray now, along with other measures, enables baby ashes to be recovered.

Have there been any occasions when ashes were scattered without parents' permission?

There was one occasion when Aberdeen Crematorium scattered ashes without parents' acknowledgement. On this occasion, we understand it was a foetus (under 24 weeks gestation). This happened shortly after the Mortonhall baby ashes news broke (Nov 2012) and was as a result of the cremator technician questioning if they could see ashes. The cremator was raked down and ashes were recovered. Scottish Government guidance at the time was there would be no ashes from foetus cremations; however since ashes were recovered, we should have informed the parents. The ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance.

Other than the above instance, there is no evidence which indicates that ashes were scattered without parents' consent.

How can parents be reassured now?

ACC has considerably changed practices and procedures at Aberdeen Crematorium in the last two and a half years. Parents can be assured baby ashes are collected and dealt with in a dignified manner and with respect.

An independent review by an industry organisation has confirmed ACC is 'making every effort to present an excellent service' and we will continue to ensure staff are fully trained and understand the importance of treating remains carefully and with respect.

Are deceased babies cremated individually?

All still-births (over 24 weeks' gestation) and deceased babies are cremated individually using trays so ashes can be collected and returned to parents, or scattered in accordance with their wishes.

As per Scottish Government guidelines, foetuses/pregnancy losses (under 24 weeks' gestation) come from NHS Grampian and NHS Grampian informs the mother/parents they can ask for an individual cremation, a shared cremation (along with other foetuses/pregnancy losses), or burial. ACC complies with any such request.

What is the process for a baby cremation?

  1. All coffins of babies, stillborn children and foetuses/pregnancy loss are placed on the Chapel's catafalque prior to cremation;
  2. The coffin is then placed within a specially made metal cremation tray and inserted into the cremator;
  3. The tray is positioned in the cremator away from the primary burner and cremation is carried out using an infant cremation programme to maximise the recovery of ashes;
  4. The tray is removed and a special lid placed over the tray to allow it to cool;
  5. The ashes are carefully collected and placed in an urn;
  6. The ash urn is placed in locked room to await collection or scattering (in accordance with the wishes of the applicant).

Can I access information on the Cremation Register?

Cremation Registers are not publically-accessible documents. Staff can access appropriate and relevant information on your behalf.