Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral directors

Published: 25 Nov 2020
Last updated: 21 Jul 2021 - see all updates

This guidance is for funeral directors to help manage their services during the current pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral directors
Collection of ashes

Collection of ashes

Ashes handling - emergency legislative provisions


The Scottish Ministers published a determination under the UK Coronavirus Act 2020 on 8 April 2020[1] which suspended the effect of sections 53 to 55 of the 2016 Act and certain provisions of the Cremation (Scotland) Regulations 2019 in connection with duties for the handling of uncollected ashes.

The determination provided that the duties in relation to uncollected ashes by cremation authorities and funeral directors (e.g. contacting applicants) were suspended.  The purpose of this suspension was to remove some of the administrative duties on cremation authorities and funeral directors, and also to give families more time to make their wishes known for the ashes before they were otherwise dispersed. For the duration of the determination, cremation authorities and funeral directors were required to retain any uncollected ashes, until they are either collected by the applicant or the determination was revoked.  

Cremation authorities and funeral directors could continue to contact applicants about uncollected ashes in the normal way, and within the set timeframes, if circumstances allowed.

Where a local authority was making arrangements for cremation under section 87 of the 2016 Act, we introduced temporary changes to allow a local authority to make the decision not to take steps to ascertain how the ashes were to be disposed of.  They could choose to submit the cremation application form without making any declaration to that effect but still had the option to ask the next of kin about their wishes for the ashes.  The local authority was required to retain the ashes for the duration of the suspension and then attempt to trace family members to ascertain their wishes for the ashes, when the suspension is lifted.


This determination, which has been in place since 8 April 2020, will be revoked from 09:00 on 22 July 2021.

This means that, from 22 July 2021, normal duties will resume for retained ashes. A cremation authority or funeral director (whoever is holding the uncollected ashes) must take reasonable steps to ascertain the applicant’s wishes in respect of those ashes as soon as reasonably practical.

Crematoriums, collection of ashes and dispersal

As with all circumstances, collection of any ashes by funeral directors or individuals from the crematorium must be in adherence to advice on physical distancing

Provision for ashes collection will be in agreement between the cremation authority and funeral director or individual.

Dispersal of ashes

Ashes can also continue to be dispersed in gardens of remembrance. This is subject to staff availability and applicant instruction to disperse in the garden of remembrance. 

First published: 25 Nov 2020 Last updated: 21 Jul 2021 -