Cremations Laws 'Will Stop Another Ashes Scandal'

New legislation on burials and cremations will ensure the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal never happens again, the Scottish Government said.


Ministers plan to change the law, introducing a legal definition of ashes and requiring authorities to keep details of both burials and cremations indefinitely.

The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill will also ensure the details when these involve a stillborn baby or a pregnancy that has been lost are recorded.

The legislation has been brought forward in the aftermath of the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal when it emerged staff at the Edinburgh crematorium had secretly buried the ashes of babies for decades without their parents' knowledge.

The Scottish Government has already made changes to meet the recommendations of Lord Bonomy's Infant Cremation Commission, with the new Bill following on from this.

Public health minister Maureen Watt hailed the legislation as "an important step forward in bringing the governance of burials and cremations in this country into the 21st century''.

She said: "Our wide-ranging proposals aim to standardise burial and cremation practices across Scotland and provides for better scrutiny and governance of those who are tasked with this important and sensitive role.

"We have also sought to address some key issues such as the safety and maintenance of burial grounds.

"While this Bill is an extremely positive step forward, we cannot forget that parts of this legislation have arisen from some very tragic circumstances.

"I have written to those parents affected by the historic practices of certain crematoria and who have been involved in the work of the National Committee on Cremation, to give them more detail about the contents of the Bill.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their contribution towards the process of preparing this legislation.

"We have already taken immediate steps to address the issues surrounding infant ashes, such as issuing national guidance and appointing an Inspector of Crematoria.

"The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill will provide the legislative framework to ensure this can never happen again.''

The Bill will update and modernise legislation that dates back 100 years and, if passed, will give ministers the power to formally regulate the funeral industry - a move which could pave the way for a licensing scheme for funeral directors to be brought in in the future.

It also sets out to regulate private burials, which take place at home or on a family's private land, and proposes allowing abandoned lairs to be restored for use in tightly-controlled circumstances and after at least 100 years have passed since the last interment.

The changes have been welcomed by industry bodies, with Bill Stanley of the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management (ICCM) saying it "applauds and wholeheartedly supports the Scottish Government's action in proposing new, fit-for-purpose burial, cremation and associated legislation that will meet the needs of a modern-day society''.

Richard Powell, secretary of the Federation of Burials and Cremations Authorities (FBCA), said they were "supportive of the move to modernise the legislation in respect of burial and cremation''.

Jim Brodie, of the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), said: "We are pleased to be engaged in partnership with the Scottish Government in reviewing and modernising the legislation surrounding cremation and burial.''

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