Bereavement can be emotionally overwhelming and being able to engage with the practical issues and funeral arrangements can be very difficult. However, it is something everyone is likely to experience at some stage in their life, whether it's the death of a family member, a loved one, or a friend. Having confidence in the care and dignity given to our loved ones, along with the compassionate and professional treatment of those bereaved, can go some way to alleviating that distress. The rare instances where this does not happen satisfactorily can have long-standing impacts on people.
This is why we need to ensure we get the right policy and legal frameworks in place.
Therefore, as Minister for Public Health and Women's Health, I am pleased to launch the Scottish Government's collection of consultations on burial, inspection, funeral director licensing, and alkaline hydrolysis (an alternative to burial and cremation). These consultations seek views on the Scottish Government's proposals for regulations for all four of these topics, which are to be made under the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 ('the 2016 Act').
The 2016 Act fulfils our commitment to implement recommendations made by the Burial and Cremation Review Group (2007), the Infant Cremation Commission (2014) and the National Cremation Investigation (2016). The regulation proposals set out in the consultations on burial, inspection and funeral director licensing are key to realising the necessary detail, protection and processes envisaged by the 2016 Act. With your help, we can ensure the right policy and legal frameworks are in place. We can ensure that regulation is fair and proportionate and achieves the aim of protecting the deceased, setting minimum standards of care in the sector, supporting consistency of service and establishing a statutory regulatory function to monitor compliance with the 2016 Act and its codes of practice. In this way, we can provide everyone with greater confidence in the funeral sector in Scotland and promote continual improvement.
We are also taking this opportunity to attain public views on alkaline hydrolysis. When consulting on the 2016 Act we were aware that alternative methods of body disposal, which could sit alongside burial and cremation, were in development. Responses to the Bill consultation showed there was public support for the introduction of new, environmentally friendly alternatives in Scotland. This included alkaline hydrolysis which is already in use in some countries including Ireland, Canada and the USA.
The Cremation (Scotland) Regulations 2019 updated how cremation is regulated and introduced revised and updated application forms and registers. It also set out the procedure for the handling of ashes. It is proposed that similar statutory requirements will apply to alkaline hydrolysis.
It is important that we ensure that regulations for any new methods are fit for purpose. So this consultation sets out the ways in which we propose alkaline hydrolysis should be governed and the safeguards which we consider should be put in place to help ensure the high standards that the public can expect with burial and cremation will apply to alkaline hydrolysis. We have also set out areas where the wider legislative framework is well established in order to set out a fuller picture of what providers will be required to comply with in order to offer alkaline hydrolysis.
Our proposal is that alkaline hydrolysis would be an additional choice for people interested in exploring possible alternatives. We are not suggesting it replaces or displaces traditional methods in any way. It is a matter of choice for the individual and we absolutely recognise that many people will not consider it suitable for them or aligned with their beliefs.
Whilst many parts of the 2016 Act and associated regulations are already in place, I recognise that delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted progress on the implementation of the remainder of the 2016 Act. I hope that the publication of these consultations demonstrates the progress made since then, working closely with the sector and other stakeholders, and the Scottish Government's continued commitment to developing these important regulations.
I am proud that Scotland is leading the way when it comes to funeral sector regulation. Scotland is the first UK nation to pursue a statutory regulatory regime for the funeral sector. In the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) final report on their funerals market investigation, they recognised Scotland's leadership in this area, and made recommendations to England, Northern Ireland and Wales to establish an inspection and registration regime, as a first step to the establishment of a broader regulatory regime for funeral services, "mirroring the approach taken in Scotland".
I appreciate we are seeking a wide variety of views from the public and from those working in the funeral sector in these consultations. I therefore invite you to respond to any or all of the consultations in this collection and thank you for taking the time to consider our proposals.
Your responses will help shape our next steps.
Jenni Minto MSP
Minister for Public Health and Women's Health
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