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Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016

Adults and children

Section 65 – Arrangements on death of adult

165.Section 65 applies when arrangements are to be made following the death of an adult who has not made any arrangements about who is to decide what is to happen to his or her remains. The phrase “arrangements on death declaration” refers to any wishes expressed by the deceased while alive regardless of whether they were made in writing or verbally. This section also applies where the adult who has died did make such arrangements but it would not be reasonably practicable to carry out those arrangements. Subsection (2) allows the nearest relative of the adult to make the arrangements, but that person is not obliged to make the arrangements if they do not wish to do so (or are unable to do so).

166.Subsection (3) establishes a hierarchy of people who meet the definition of nearest relative. This is set out in paragraphs (a) to (k) of subsection (3). Subsection (4) makes provision for a situation where the spouse or civil partner of the deceased was permanently separated or deserted from the adult.

167.Any relative that falls within one of the categories set out in this section will rank equally with any other relative in the same category and may be considered to be the nearest relative (subsection (6)). For example two siblings are treated as having equal rank. Stepchildren of the adult who has died will be treated as if they were a natural child of the adult. Any half-blood sibling will have the same rights as a whole-blood sibling (subsection (5)).

168.Subsection (7) provides that someone who is under 16 years of age is regarded as a child and will not be eligible to instruct the disposal of the adult’s remains. Anyone who would otherwise be eligible but does not wish to or is unable to make the arrangements or is unable to make the arrangements for any reason, will not be included. This ensures that no-one will be required to take on responsibility for making such arrangements.

169.Subsection (7)(c) provides that if it is not reasonably practicable to communicate with the relative in the time available they may also be excluded and will not be called upon to make the arrangements, even if the person would have wished to do so. In this case, the responsibility falls to the next person in the hierarchy established at paragraphs (a) to (k) of subsection (3).

170.Subsection (9) provides that this section is subject to section 92 of the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008, which would take effect if there was any risk to public health from the body. This would mean that the local authority would be able to take steps to minimise the risk to health, including disposing of the body without having to consider the requirements of this section.

Section 66 – Arrangements on death of child

171.Section 66 applies in respect of the arrangements to be made following the death of a child. A child is someone who is under 16 years of age.

172.Subsection (2) provides that the nearest relative may make the arrangements for the burial or cremation of their remains. As with section 65, the nearest relative is not obliged to make the arrangements if they do not wish to do so, or are unable to do so.

173.Subsection (3) sets out the order of priority of the nearest relative who may instruct the disposal of the remains and the nearest relative is defined in paragraphs (a) to (g) of subsection (3). Subsection (3)(g) refers to ‘a friend of long standing of the child’. This is intended to allow adults who had a relationship with the child to make a decision even if they do not fall into any of the familial categories set out at paragraphs (a) to (f) of subsection (3). Subsection (4) provides that the relatives will rank in the order of those paragraphs.

174.A relative who is a half-blood relation will be treated in the same way as a relative who is of the whole-blood. Subsection (5) provides that where there is more than one person of the same rank in any of the paragraphs, each of them will rank equally with the others in the same paragraph. This is the same process as for section 46, but the hierarchy established by paragraphs (a) to (g) of subsection (3) takes account of the different relationships a child would have as opposed to the relationships of an adult.

175.Subsection (6) provides that a child who is under 16 years of age immediately prior to the death will not be eligible to instruct the burial or cremation of the remains unless they are the parent of the child who has died. This will ensure that anyone under the age of 16 who is a parent will not be excluded from making the decision. Anyone who would otherwise be eligible under paragraphs (a) to (g) of subsection (3), but does not wish to make the arrangements or is unable to make the arrangements for any reason will not be included. This ensures that no one can be forced to take on responsibility for making such arrangements.

176.Subsection (6)(c) sets out that where it is not reasonably practicable to communicate with the person in the time available they will be excluded and will not be called upon to make the arrangements. This will apply even if the person would have wished to make the arrangements.

177.This section is subject to section 92 of the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008, which will apply if there is any risk to public health as a result of the presence of a person’s body in premises other than a mortuary or hospital.

Section 67 – Arrangements under sections 65 and 66

178.Section 67 provides that the person who is making arrangements for the disposal of the remains by virtue of being the “nearest relative” under section 65(2) or 66(2) is free to choose the method of disposal (i.e. burial or cremation). Nevertheless the nearest relative should take account of any wishes expressed by the deceased. Subsection (3) requires that the person who makes the decision must have regard to any wishes about the disposal method that the deceased expressed, as far as the person is aware of any such wishes. They must also have regard to the deceased’s religion or belief (as far as known) when deciding whether to bury or cremate those remains. “Belief” and “religion” have the meanings given by the Equality Act 2010. The only limit on the nearest relative making the decision would be if there was a risk to public health posed by a particular method of disposal under the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008.

Section 68Sections 65 and 66: application to sheriff

179.Sections 65 and 66 set out who has the right to instruct the disposal of remains. Section 68 provides for the resolution of disputes – for example where two people each claim to have the right. Subsection (1) permits anyone who claims they are entitled to make arrangements for disposal to make an application to the sheriff. The sheriff can make an order setting out who is entitled to make the arrangements. The sheriff may make the order based on an “arrangements on death declaration” made by the deceased or based on who is the nearest relative. For the purposes of the Act, the phrase “arrangements on death declaration” means any statement (whether verbal or written) the deceased made while alive which specified the person whom the deceased wished to make the arrangements for the disposal of his or her remains. Subsection (2) allows the sheriff to also make any other provision that is considered appropriate or necessary when making an order.

180.In certain circumstances an application may not be made under this section. Subsection (5) allows that such restrictions apply in cases where there is a risk to public health from the remains of the deceased and where either an application for an order under section 93(1) of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 has been made and not disposed of, or an order under that section has been made in respect of the remains.

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