Burial Regulations Working Group minutes: December 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 9 December 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Danny Maxwell, South Lanarkshire Council
  • David MacColl, Glasgow City Council
  • David MacLeod, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)
  • Fiona Porter, North Ayrshire Council
  • Gordon Findlater, Inspector for Burial, Cremation and Funeral Directors
  • Ian Kearns, Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA)
  • Iain Campbell, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)
  • James Morris, William Purves Funeral Directors and National Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) on behalf of Tim Purves
  • Jane Matheson, City of Edinburgh Council
  • John Downes, Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Bereavement Benchmarking Group (SBBG)
  • John MacLean, Highland Council
  • John Proffitt, Edinburgh Crematorium Ltd
  • Joseph Murren, National Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
  • Katie Huxtable, Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)
  • Liz Murphy, Fife Council
  • Mathew Crawley, Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM)
  • Nick Britten, National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
  • Nicola Welsh, Held in our Hearts
  • Robbie Beattie, City of Edinburgh Council
  • Robert Swanson, Senior Inspector of Burial, Cremation and Funeral Directors
  • Sam Harris, Orkney Islands Council
  • Shirley Bruce, Aberdeenshire Council
  • Susan Buckham, National Committee on Carved Stones in Scotland (NCCSS)
  • Yvonne Scott, Shetland Islands Council

Scottish Government

  • Cheryl Paris, Burial & Cremation, Anatomy and Death Certification
  • Euan Mcardle, Burial & Cremation, Anatomy and Death Certification
  • Kim Hunter, Burial & Cremation, Anatomy and Death Certification


  • Brendan Day, the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA)
  • James Blackburn, National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
  • Julie Dunk, Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM)
  • Russell Brooks, National Association of Monumental Masons (NAMM)
  • Tim Purves, William Purves Funeral Directors

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The meeting was opened and members were thanked for their attendance and participation in the Burial Regulations Working Group.

Emphasis was given to the important nature of the work that the group will undertake.

Members’ gave an introduction and brief overview of their role and interests in the area via Microsoft teams.

Remit of the Burial Regulations Working Group (paper 1 – terms of reference)

An overview of the terms of reference document was provided, which gave a summary of the legislation, previous editions of the working group, the governance of the working group and the group’s remit.

Previous editions of the working group generally agreed that the regulations should maintain flexibility for burial authorities to make local considerations and adjustments.

The remit of the working group encompasses policy development that will inform the burial regulations, developing guidance for these regulations and the future preparation of a Code of Practice for burial authorities.

Scottish Government officials’ expressed hope that the intended burial regulations would be laid in the Scottish Parliament in the 2022 to 2023 term, dependent on a number of factors including Coronavirus in Scotland and Parliamentary schedules.

Discussion was opened on unrepresented or underrepresented areas that should be present in the group and on the terms of reference document, to which a number of questions and comments were provided:

The remit and context of the group should be altered to include the care of the deceased and bereaved as a key aim.

Under represented parties included Historic Environment Scotland, child bereavement and/or child burial charities, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), and the National Association of Monumental Masons (NAMM).

There was not a Scottish Bereavement Benchmarking Group (SBBG) representative and from the next meeting one of the current local authority representatives will take this on.

The members’ contributions and questions were acknowledged and any resulting actions were likewise acknowledged and committed to be progressed.

Action: all - updates to the membership list and the remit and/or context of the group within the terms of reference document to be sent to Scottish Government via e-mail.  

Action: Scottish Government to update membership list and remit and/or context within the terms of reference document.

Action: Scottish Government to contact suggested parties to ask for representatives to attend as working group members.

Action: local authority representatives to decide on an SBBG representative for the working group.

Work Progressed to Date by Previous Editions of the Working Group (paper 2 – progress to date)

An overview of the Progress to Date document was provided and included progress made by previous editions of the group, and the actions to be taken forward under the five key themes of burial management, burial application forms, exhumation, private/home burial and the reuse of lairs. Parliament prefers a set of regulations and that the burial and cremation team would need to bid for a Parliamentary slot in the near future.

The group acknowledged their specific role around regulation and discussed the interdependencies that exist between the regulations and other pressures such as time and funding. 

Discussion was opened on the way forward for the group and the Progress to Date document. A number of questions and points were raised during the discussion:

Members requested a review of the Progress to Date document, in particular; Section 6, Point 2, regarding disease and infection, which due to the Coronavirus pandemic, could be deemed out-of-date.

Members queried the need for separate regulation on exhumation, and thought it could be encompassed under one of the other key themes. It was acknowledged that the sector is currently reliant on Common Law, and consequently, it would be beneficial to have it within the regulations.

In relation to the exhumation theme, it was asked whether the regulations could potentially include securing archaeological advice where ground disturbance may damage archaeological remains.

Separately, it was noted that recent remains and historical remains may need treated differently under this theme.

Members agreed that definitions of the terms ‘maintenance’ and ‘management’ should be agreed, to ensure the group works cohesively when discussing these themes, but that these definitions must be flexible enough to accommodate various circumstances/views. It was agreed this would be discussed in more detail at a future meeting.

In the context of heritage, maintenance and management would include below ground remains, soft landscaping, gravestones and other built features, atmosphere, landscape character etc.

Local authority representatives stated that that maintenance would include a number different factors comprising of, but not limited to, inspections, memorial inspection including remedial and/or permanent make safe actions, wall repairs and general upkeep; grass and tree cutting, responding to requests made by members of the public, and in some instances managed decline and rewilding.

Burial authorities are limited by a number of external pressures including funding.

Members commented that the regulations may have an effect on, and the potential to incur unintended consequences on community groups and volunteers, who run community burial grounds. And it was asked if it was known what training the volunteers have and if they use shoring.

Action: Scottish Government to contact the Committee clerks in order to discuss how they would like to receive regulations.

Action: Scottish Government to consider definitions for ‘maintenance’ and ‘management’ and circulate to the group

Action: Scottish Government to add management of burial grounds to the next meeting’s agenda.

Action: Scottish Government to consider the addition of securing archaeological advice when discussion the Exhumation Regulations.

Open discussion

The group discussed how management plans could be added into the regulations in a way that would keep the unique points that effect each local authority individually.

Burial-only authorities asked if an example crematorium management plan could be shared to provide more context on what the management plan could potentially include, in order to progress work on creating their own management plans. It was noted that what required to be included was within the Cremation Regulations 2019 and that each cremation authority wrote their own plan in order to tailor it.

Action: Scottish Government to share the link to the Cremation Regulations 2019, and links to cremation authority management plans.

Meeting schedule

A meeting schedule was agreed at a frequency of every 6 weeks. The duration may vary in order to come to consensus on certain topics.

Some meetings may not require the whole group’s attendance, although, any decisions would continue to be made by the group as a whole.

Next steps and closing remarks

The meeting was closed, and the ambition to facilitate the group through a collaborative approach to develop the regulations was once again highlighted.  The group agreed to work collaboratively providing their expertise and knowledge to help develop the regulations.

The next meeting will be held on 13th January 2022 via Microsoft Teams.

Back to top