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Arranging a cremation

This advice applies to Scotland

Coronavirus – registering a death, cremations and funerals

Local Registrars' offices are making special arrangements to register deaths by email or phone.  

Check your local council website for details. Find your local council on  

Cremations and funerals

Cremations, burials and funeral services can go ahead in Scotland. In levels 0, 1, 2 and 3, you can also hold a wake in a regulated venue, like a hotel. In level 4, wakes and other post funeral gatherings are not allowed.

How many people can attend depends on what protection level applies to the area. You should check the protection level using the Scottish government postcode checker. This will tell you what rules and guidance to follow. 

The maximum number of people at a funeral or wake should be:

  • 50 in level 0
  • 20 in levels 1, 2 or 3
  • 20 at a funeral in level 4 and wakes are not allowed. 

This number includes children but not the celebrant, venue staff or funeral director. 

Funeral directors and crematoriums will take extra steps to stop the spread of coronavirus and protect you and their staff. This means different households should stay two metres apart and you must wear a face covering indoors. 

There's guidance for funeral services on the Scottish government website. 

Some of the rules on arranging a cremation have changed. For example, another relative can arrange the cremation if the closest relative can't. The crematorium or funeral director can explain what to do. 

Bereavement advice and support

Resources and support for bereavement are available from the Good Grief Trust. 

PETAL Support offers free counselling for people over 12 years old who have experienced bereavement due to coronavirus. 

PETAL Support (Scotland)
8 Barrack Street

Tel: 01698 324502 (Monday to Thursday from 9.00am to 5.00pm; Friday from 9.00am to 4.00pm)

Arranging a funeral service

The person named by the deceased in a will or declaration should arrange the funeral. If they don’t want to, or there’s no named person, there’s a hierarchy of people who can arrange it, starting with the nearest relative. If there is no one, the local authority will arrange a simple funeral. 

The person may have left instructions about the type of funeral they wanted, for example, a burial or cremation. There is no legal obligation for these instructions to be followed, but they usually are. 

If you arrange the funeral with a funeral director, you're responsible for the costs. You should ask to see a price list before choosing a funeral, or explain how much you have to spend and see what services are possible. Check the Fair Funerals map for funeral directors who have affordable options.

You might be able to get help paying for the funeral if you're on benefits. Check if you can get a Funeral Support Payment.

Who can arrange a cremation 

You can only arrange a cremation if you're 16 years or older, unless you're a parent of the person who has died.

You can apply for the cremation if:

  • you were named in the will or declaration
  • there’s no named person, or that person doesn't wish to arrange the cremation and you're the nearest relative

The guidance notes that come with the application for cremation explain who the nearest relative is.

The person completing the application is known as 'the applicant'.

How to arrange a cremation 

To cremate a person in Scotland you must submit the right forms to the crematorium where you want the cremation to take place.

The forms you need are:

  • a certificate to confirm the death - this might be a Certificate of registration of death (Form 14), a certificate of registration of stillbirth, a certificate of pregnancy loss or Health Authority/medical practitioner confirmation that the pregnancy has ended

  • an Application for Cremation (Form A) - from 4 April 2019 new style forms will be available which can be either paper or electronic applications

If you applied using an old style application form before 4 April 2019 but the cremation has not taken place until after that date, there's no need to submit a new form.

If the death is being investigated

If the Procurator Fiscal has instructed the death to be investigated you will also need a certificate once the investigation is complete (Form E1). The Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU) is a specialist unit for investigating these deaths. Form E1 can be sent directly to the crematorium by the SFIU or you can send it at the same time as Form A.

Completing Form A 

The person completing the application is known as 'the applicant'. The guidance notes that come with the application form explain who can fill it in. 

If you're not able to complete the form yourself, for example because you are disabled or English isn't your first language, you can authorise someone to complete it on your behalf. This must be done in your presence and you must sign the form.

If a cremation can't go ahead at a crematorium and needs to be carried out at a different crematorium, you'll need to submit a new form. 

You'll need to state what you want to happen to the ashes on the form. 

Collecting the ashes

The ashes can be:

Collecting the ashes from the crematorium 

You can choose to collect the ashes directly from the crematorium. They may be in an urn or a box, depending on what has been agreed with the crematorium.

The crematorium must give you written notice (this can be by email) that they have the ashes and that they're ready to be collected. If the ashes aren’t collected within 4 weeks of the cremation taking place, the cremation authority will try to contact you to agree a new date for collection. If you don't respond or give the crematorium new instructions to handle the ashes, the crematorium may scatter or bury the ashes, according to their standard procedure. If this happens, it will be recorded in its cremation register.

Collection by a funeral director

You can arrange for a funeral director to collect the ashes, for example to arrange a ceremony to bury the ashes. The funeral director will give you written notice (this can be by email) that they have the ashes and that they are ready to be collected. If the ashes are not collected within 4 weeks of them being made available, the funeral director will try to contact you to agree a new date for collection. If you don't respond or don’t tell the funeral director how to dispose of the ashes, they can return the ashes to the crematorium. The cremation authority will contact you to find out your wishes.

Disposal by the crematorium

Not all crematoriums offer the same services, for example some will scatter ashes while others will bury them. You should speak to the cremation authority or funeral director about the options.

Cremation register

Each cremation authority must have a register with an entry for every cremation carried out. The information must be added to the register as soon as reasonably practicable. This register must be kept indefinitely. The register can be made available to the public but a cremation authority may charge a fee. The information recorded on the register will depend on the type of cremation carried out, for example in the case of stillbirth or pregnancy loss the details will be anonymised.

Next Steps 

Find out more about arranging a funeral

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