Current Affairs

Funeral directors to discuss implications of burial and cremation bill passed by Scottish Parliament

Scottish funeral directors will soon be meeting to discuss the ways in which upcoming regulation of the funeral sector may impact on their businesses. A debate organised by the NAFD and SAIF will take place on April 1 at Stirling.

In 2016 the Scottish Parliament passed legislation to modernise the governance and scrutiny of burial and cremation. The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill will modernise and update 100 year-old legislation. It also features measures to give Scottish Ministers the powers to formally regulate the funeral industry – including making provision for the introduction of a licensing scheme for funeral directors.

The Bill takes forward recommendations from the Infant Cremation Commission chaired by Lord Bonomy, which was set up following concerns about the historical mishandling and disposal of infant remains.

The Bill also gives effect to those recommendations made by the Burial and Cremation Review Group not already implemented in the Certification of Death (Scotland) Act 2011.

Speaking at the time, Minister Maureen Watt said: “The new legislation will bring important and much-needed changes to burial and cremation processes – helping to ensure that they are easy to understand, reliable and fit-for-purpose.

“It will create a legislative framework for burial and cremation that will meet the needs of 21st Century Scotland and address the shortcomings in the current system.

“While the Bill’s passage has been marked by broad agreement on the Bill’s key provisions, and the need for new legislation, there is no doubt that the Bill has been strengthened by the parliamentary process.

“I’d like to thank all those people who gave such valuable evidence on the Bill, particularly those affected parents who have made such an important contribution throughout this whole process.

“Over 100 amendments have been made by this Government based on much of the evidence given at the Committee stage – ensuring these new laws work for everyone who will be affected by them.

“In particular, I’m proud that this Government has legislated to prevent any repetition of the issues around the handling of infant remains identified first at Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh. The new processes and increased scrutiny introduced by this Bill will ensure those mistakes can never happen again.”

In line with the recommendations from the Infant Cremation Commission, the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill will:

  • Introduce a legal definition of ‘ashes’.
  • Require the relevant authorities, including health authorities, to keep burial and cremation records indefinitely and ensure that details of the burial and cremation of pregnancy losses and stillborn babies are recorded.
  • Strengthen the application process for cremation, requiring the applicant to clearly specify what should be done with ashes and also requiring cremation authorities to record details of cremations on a central register.

The new legislation will also modernise and improve the administrative procedures surrounding adult cremation.

The Government will also supplement the existing role of Inspector of Crematoria by establishing two new inspector roles for burial authorities and funeral directors.

Burial authorities, such as local councils, will also be given the power to carry out activities considered necessary for the upkeep and management of burial grounds – including maintaining and repairing headstones and memorials to make them safe. The Bill will make it a legal requirement for burial authorities to ensure the safety of burial grounds.

The Bill will also regulate private burials (i.e. burials at home or in a private family burial ground) and introduce measures to address the issue of pressure on available burial land in Scotland.

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