National Committee on Burial and Cremation minutes: June 2017

Minutes of the meeting of the National Committee on Burial and Cremation that took place on 12 June 2017.

Attendees and apologies


  • Chair - Gareth Brown, Head of Health Protection, Scottish Government
  • Cheryl Paris, Scottish Government Legislation Team
  • Dr Mini Mishra, Senior Medical Officer, Scottish Government
  • John Williamson, National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
  • Nicola Welsh, Sands Lothians
  • Rick Powell, Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA)
  • Robert Swanson, Inspector of Crematoria
  • Trishna Singh, Interfaith Scotland
  • Vicki McKechnie, Scottish Government (Committee Support Officer)
  • Willie Reid, Parent Representative


  • Aileen Lawrie, NHS Heads of Midwifery
  • Bill Stanley, Institite of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM)
  • David Baxter, Association of Private Crematoria and Cemeteries (APCC)
  • David MacColl, Scottish Bereavement Benchmarking Group (SBBG)
  • Glenn Palmer, Ministry of Justice
  • Helene Marshall, NHS Education Scotland
  • Ian Kearns, Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA)
  • Jim Brodie, Society of Independent and Allied Funeral Directors (SAIF)
  • Natalie McKail, Inspector of Funeral Directors
  • Pippa Milne, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE)

Items and actions

Agreed Actions:

a. SG Action – CMO letter will be updated to reflect recent changes in legislation.

b. SG Action - To check whether any parents from ethnic communities lodged cases with Dame Elish’s investigation.

c. SG Action – To send the revised draft cremation application forms and newsletter to Committee members.

d.  John Williamson – To send the SG a list of those local authorities/crematoriums that request a death certificate before the cremation can be booked.   

e. Group Action - to make suggestions or recommendations about anything that the group would like the Inspector of Crematoria to add to his inspection regime.

f. SG Action – To circulate the NES video and training pack to members before it is published.

g. SG Action – Contact all local authorities to seek an update on what work has been done towards implementing Lord Bonomy’s and Dame Elish’s recommendations.

h. SG Action -  convert on-going business into an action plan and continue to report to Scottish Ministers on Lord Bonomy recommendations on a regular basis.

i. SG Action – To send consultation on pregnancy loss forms to the Royal Colleges for their comments.

j. SG Action – Contact NES to ask whether there is general bereavement training across boards.

k. SG Action – To speak to funeral poverty colleagues about perpetuity fees and cremation fee discrepancies.

Welcome, minute of last meeting and matters arising

1. The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and provided some background information to new members.  The members noted that the National Committee on Infant Cremation had been established two years previously to oversee the implementation of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations.  Given that those recommendations were either complete or would be complete once the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 was commenced, the focus of the Committee would now be extended to include oversight of Dame Elish Angiolini’s recommendations as well as overseeing the implementation of the Act.  The Committee had therefore been re-named the National Committee on Burial and Cremation.  

2. Subject to Dr Mishra’s comments, the minute of the last meeting of the National Infant Cremation Committee was approved by the members for publication on the Scottish Government website.  The actions from the final meeting of the National Committee were discussed.  All previous actions were marked complete with the exception of the CMO letter which will reflect the recent changes in legislation and the outcomes of visits to NHS boards. – Action SG

Updated membership and terms of reference

3. The Committee previously agreed that the membership of the group should be reviewed after two years.  The membership review had now taken place.  Gareth Brown asked each member of the Committee to introduce themselves to the group.

4. Gareth Brown informed the Committee that the updated Terms of Reference were published on the SG website.

5. Trishna Singh queried whether there had been any involvement from people from ethnic communities up until this point.  Gareth Brown agreed to check whether anyone from ethnic communities had been contacted/ involved in Dame Elish’s investigation. – Action – SG

Appointment of Inspector of Funeral Directors

6. The Group noted that the Inspector of Funeral Directors had now been appointed. 

7. The Inspector, Natalie McKail, would take up post on a part time basis in July 2017 and would move to full time from August 2017 onwards.

Natalie would spend the first 18 months of her two year appointment undertaking a review of the funeral profession,  before making recommendations to Scottish Ministers on how the profession should be regulated, including whether to introduce licensing.  Following this initial period, the Inspector would be expected to formally inspect the funeral directors businesses in line with the powers set out in the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.

8. Gareth Brown noted that, in the future, it was highly likely that Scottish Ministers  would require more than one Inspector of Funeral Directors, due to the number of funeral director businesses in Scotland.

9. Natalie had agreed to be a member of this Committee going forward.

Verbal updates from legislation team, inspector and sub-groups

Update from legislation team

10. Cheryl Paris discussed the progress of the implementation of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.  The Cremation Regulations consultation closed on Friday 9th June and received 40 responses in total including responses from all of the trade organisations, NHS, local authorities, anatomy schools, private cremation authorities and funeral directors.

11. Comments would be analysed and changes would be made to the cremation forms as a result.  A copy of these forms would be discussed with the Cremation Regulations Working Group.

12. It is anticipated that the Cremation Regulations, including the forms and registers, will be laid in Scottish Parliament after summer recess and will be in force before the end of 2017 (subject to Parliamentary timetabling).

13. Cheryl agreed to send the revised draft cremation application forms and a copy of the latest newsletter to the Committee members. – Action - SG

14. In addition to the cremation regulations, the Legislation Team was currently working with SG Legal Department and the Inspector of Crematoria to draft the Inspection Regulations.  These Regulations would include details of the frequency of inspections, format of inspections and possible sanctions that could be used where standards were not being met.  The Inspection Regulations will be issued for wider consultation shortly.

15. It is intended that the Inspection Regulations will be laid in Parliament at the same time as the Cremation Regulations and will therefore be laid after summer recess and will come in to force before the end of 2017 (subject to parliamentary timetabling).

16. The Group heard that the Team was also working on Commencement Regulations and explained that these will bring in to force a number of sections of the Act.  The Commencement Regulations will also be laid after summer recess and will come into force at the same time as the cremation and inspection sections.

17. John Williamson raised concern that following the implementation of the death certification process, some crematoriums were refusing to set provisional dates for cremations until the death certificate has been issued.  This was causing delays to bereaved families.  John agreed to send the SG a list of those local authorities/crematoriums that request a death certification before the cremation can be booked. Action – John Williamson  

18. The group noted that societal changes had an impact on businesses, for example, the increased need for cold storage had resulted in some funeral directors having to install extra refrigeration in their premises.  The group was interested to find out how the funeral profession was showing leadership and supporting their staff throughout the changes. 

19. Cheryl informed the Committee that NAFD and SAIF have been developing a shared Code of Practice document.  This document is currently being drafted and once finalised, will be shared with the Scottish Government and the Inspector of Funeral Directors.

Update from Inspector of Crematoria

20. Robert Swanson informed the group that his first Annual Report had been published and was available on the Scottish Government website.  The Group was informed that crematoria had engaged with the inspection process and where issues had been identified the Inspector had, and continued to, work with staff to resolve those issues.  Sharing information and good practice among crematoria had been a crucial tool for improving practice.    

21. The Inspector informed the group that the recovery rate of baby ashes was 100% which was an important achievement.  Visits to 21 of the 29 crematoria had already taken place this year.  After all 29 visits had been completed formal inspections would begin.

22. The inspector invited the group to make suggestions or recommendations in regards to anything that they would like him to add to his inspection regime.

Action – Group 

Update on subgroups

23. Gareth Brown informed the Committee that all but one of the original subgroups have now ceased.  The Training and Communications subgroup is the only group which remained ongoing.

NES film update

24. Cheryl Paris updated the Committee on progress of the training resource developed by NES.  The resource would support cremation staff, NHS staff, funeral directors, burial authorities and anyone else working with bereaved families to ensure that they were meeting the requirements of the Act at the same time as being sensitive to families.  The resource consists of two parts – a video and a written information pack.  The resource would ensure that all staff  provide accurate and consistent information to families throughout each stage of the bereavement process.

25. The animation and the voiceover for the video were now complete.  SG was working with NES to finalise the content of the information pack.  Both the video and information pack would be completed by the end of July 2017.

26. The Scottish Government would ensure that the Committee members have sight of this work before it is published.  – Action- SG

27. Mini Mishra suggested that information about the changes should also be made available to the public. 

Update on work plan - Bonomy/Angiolini recommendations

28. Gareth Brown noted that almost all of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations had been completed and/or were in progress.

29. It was noted that recommendation number 46 - “The person with direct management responsibility for the operation of a crematorium should hold either a qualification in crematorium management or the FBCA certificate of competence to operate cremators or the ICCM intermediate certificate for crematorium technical operations” could not be replicated in legislation.  This recommendation raised a bigger question with regards to how it could be ensured that crematoria staff were sufficiently trained and accredited.  This would be considered in due course.    

30. At the time of completing his report, Bonomy recommended that a national memorial be erected in memory of those babies whose ashes had not been returned to parents.  In the years since this recommendation was made no parent had expressed any interest in a national memorial being erected, which may in part be a result of local authorities erecting local memorials.  With this in mind the Committee agreed that the memorial recommendation should be marked as complete.  Concern had been raised with regard to the speed with which Glasgow City Council was progressing it’s local memorial.  It was agreed that the SG would continue to work with Glasgow on the development of their memorial.

31. Recommendation 22 required a witness signature on cremation application forms.  The Group noted that the necessity for a witness signature had been part of the consultation on the cremation regulations and had not been supported by respondents for a number of reasons.  It was therefore agreed to close recommendation 22.

32. Gareth Brown updated the Committee on progress with Dame Elish’s recommendations.  Those which relate to training issues were all in progress.

33. Following the publication of the report, the Minister wrote to Chief Executives and leaders of relevant organisations (Cremation Authorities, Local Authorities etc)  making them aware of the recommendations which require responsibility from burial or cremation authorities.  Gareth Brown confirmed with the Committee that members were content for him to write to relevant leaders seeking an update on the implementation of the Dame Elish recommendations. Action – SG

34. The Group noted that other than recommendations which relate to legislation, the majority of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations were now complete.  The Committee, therefore, would not routinely discuss each of Bonomy’s recommendations at future meetings.  On-going business would instead be converted into an action plan which would be reviewed at the meetings.  Gareth also confirmed that the SG would continue to report to Scottish Ministers on these recommendations on a regular basis. Action - SG

NHS board progress

35. Since the last meeting of the Committee, the legislation team had written to NHS Board leads to request information on how they were implementing the recommendations that affected them.  In addition, the team had also attended various NHS board meetings, training sessions and subgroups around the country and had established that NHS Boards are making significant progress.

36. NHS Boards had responded to Lord Bonomy and Dame Elish recommendations by changing their practices and procedures and were now working towards implementing the new legislation.  The legislation team had concluded from their visits that in general the NHS was in a good position to implement the new regulations when they come in to force.

37. To support the NHS to implement the changes the legislation team had developed flowcharts that could be used by midwives and others on the wards when a pregnancy loss occurs. 

38. Part 3 of the Act requires Scottish Ministers to prescribe forms to be used by NHS Boards when a woman experiences a loss to record her wishes for a funeral.  The first draft of these forms has now been circulated to one multi-disciplinary early pregnancy loss subgroup for comment.  Once these comments have been received, the team will redraft the forms and then send them out for wider consultation.

39. The forms will come in to statute at the same time as the commencement regulations which is hoped to be before the end of 2017.

40. Mini Mishra requested that comments on these forms are sought from the Royal Colleges. Action - SG

41. Nicola Welsh raised concern that not all midwives are receiving bereavement training as this is not compulsory.  The committee agreed that the Scottish Government should write to NES to gauge what type of bereavement training is currently offered across boards and if any boards are making training compulsory. Action – SG

42. The group raised concern that there have been some incidences where bereaved families who would like an apology from the NHS were being forced down the complaints procedure route.  Mini advised that as of the 19th June 2017, the Apologies Scotland Act 2016 will bring in a new legal protection for doctors in Scotland and will allow them to apologise to patients for errors.

43. In addition, the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016 will introduce, through regulations, a legal duty of candour in Scotland.  This will open up honesty and transparency between professionals and patients.


44. As noted above the Scottish Government had not received any requests from parents for a national memorial and, therefore, the Government was satisfied that local memorials were more appropriate. 

45. At the previous meeting of the committee, members noted that the Scottish Government was keen to hear from specific cremation authorities who were criticised in Dame Elish’s report and who had not thus far provided an update on memorials.  SG officials wrote to Argyll and Bute, Falkirk and Dundee.  The responses showed that Falkirk Council was in the final stages of constructing their memorial in Dollar park, Falkirk; Dundee already has a children’s memorial in place which has helped parents and; in Argyll and Bute there has been no appetite for a local memorial from parents.

Any other business/matters arising

46. Rick Powell updated the group that the FBCA Annual Event would be taking place in Stratford-Upon-Avon from 3rd – 5th July 2017.  Helene Marshall from NES is attending to present the NES film to delegates.  Gareth Brown is also presenting at the event.

47. John Williamson raised concern that Angus Council has introduced a new charge for the care and maintenance of lairs.  The charge will be applied to new lairs and retrospectively when the first interment takes place on lairs purchased prior to 1 April 2017.  Angus council will not be writing to lair holders to inform them of this new charge therefore, funeral directors will be required to inform the client that they will be charged this additional ownership fee.  John is concerned that this creates a lack of transparency.

48. John Williamson also noted the variation in the costs of cremation across Scotland and wondered if the Scottish Government was aware of these discrepancies.  Cheryl reassured John that this matter was being discussed with funeral poverty colleagues.  A further discussion would take place with funeral poverty colleagues and an update would be provided.  Action – SG

Next meeting

49. It was agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held in November/December 2017.  SG would canvass dates with members.

Burials and Cremations Team

Scottish Government

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