Susan Buckham 2017

Centre for Environment, Heritage and Policy, University of Stirling, UK

What are the new challenges and opportunities for managing historic graveyards in Scotland arising from legislation-led changes to burial provision?

In 2016, the Scottish Government updated the laws governing burial and cemetery management. The previous primary legislation, drafted in 1855, enshrined the ability to purchase burial rights in perpetuity. The 2016 act enables grave reuse and seeks to clarify procedures for burial authorities to deal with ‘ownerless’ graves and gravestones, many of which are historic in date. Local communities tend to perceive historic burial grounds as different from their ‘modern’ counterparts by virtue not only of their age but also by their incapacity to provide new burial space and it can be argued that this has resulted in a more ready acceptance of their greenspace and heritage values. At the same time, however, there has been little public debate to develop a detailed consensus for how historic graveyards should be managed and used as urban greenspace, heritage attractions and local amenities. This paper will consider how Scottish law influenced the ways in which communities might engage with burial space from the nineteenth century into the present day. It will assess the strengths and weaknesses within the framing of the new legislation to highlight the main issues that Scottish Government guidance should address in order to guide how the new law operated in practice to realise the best outcomes for urban greenspace, heritage and local burial provision.


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