Grave matter for Borderers

Buried Borderers could be dug out of their graves and reburied under controversial plans being mooted by the Scottish Government.

It’s part of Holyrood’s way of extending the lifespan of cramped cemeteries and freeing up limited burial space.

And the recycling of graves is being backed by Scottish Borders Council, which says it could save them cash.

The local authority, which manages 154 burial grounds, is supporting new legislation which, if enacted, would allow plots which are already full to be re-used.

The radical move is enshrined in a Scottish Government consultation paper on its proposed Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill.

The re-use of full lairs, common practice in several European countries, involves remains being exhumed and re-interred at a deeper level.

However, it will only apply to graves where the last burial took place at least 75 years ago and councils will have to publicly advertise their intention to re-use a lair.

The consultation paper states: “If any surviving relative came forward to object, then re-use would not be permitted.”

However, a key aim of the proposed legislation is to stop lairs and cemeteries falling into disuse and disrepair.

And if a descendant does come forward, he or she will become responsible for the upkeep of the lair and any memorials.

Responding to the proposals on Tuesday, SBC’s executive endorsed a report by neighbourhood area manager Jason Hedley who said the re-use of graves, although potentially controversial, could reduce council costs in providing new burial space and increasing the capacity of older cemeteries.

He said the council could also benefit financially from the proposal to end the practice of lairs being sold in perpetuity and that transfer of ownership need not be restricted to family members.

Councillors agreed that the new legislation should contain provision for so-called home burials.

But these would only be allowed provided there were no land ownership issues and interments were carried out by competent staff to ensure appropriate health and safety procedures are followed.

Mr Hedley reported that, in 2014/15, the council had undertaken 768 burials, including five assisted funerals where the deceased was intestate or had no next of kin.

He estimated that around 600 cremations had taken place at the two privately-run crematoriums in the region – at Melrose and Houndswood, near Eyemouth.

There were 1,295 deaths registered in the region in 2014/15.