SNP government seeks public views on water cremations

By Bill Heaney

Asperges Me, a Gregorian chant in Latin which is sometimes heard at funerals, asks God to cleanse deceased persons from their sins before they make their final journey to the cemetery or crematorium.

It involves holy water being sprinkled from an aspergillum by the person conducting the funeral service over the coffin and the people participating in the service.

Apart from the water in the font at the entrance to the church and the baptismal font, water is something that has been used by celebrants for centuries, mainly in Catholic churches and some other “high” churches

Now a national consultation is to be held on how people would wish to their remains to be disposed of.

It involves HOT water and is likely to be more controversial than the introduction of cremation last century.

Cremation was banned by the Catholic Church for many years and then it was frowned upon for a time but now in the 21st century it appears to be welcomed by all churches and none.

And here locally we have two crematoriums which are busy and overseen by local authorities in Cardross and Clydebank.

However, crematoriums and cemeteries could be a thing of the past if alkaline hydrolysis, a method of disposal of human remains using hot water with the addition of potassium hydroxide, or sodium hydroxide, or a mix of both, are given public approval.

The public is being asked for views on alkaline hydrolysis (water cremations), burials, funeral director licensing and funeral sector inspections in four separate public consultations currently taking place.

Dumbarton Cemetery which has a reputation as one of the best looked after in Scotland.

According to the Scottish Government, the regulations proposed in the consultations “aim to protect the dignity of the deceased and increase confidence in the funeral sector by ensuring minimum standards of good care and services are maintained”.

They maintain that responses to the consultation on the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill showed there was public support for the introduction of new, environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional burial or cremation in Scotland.

Alkaline hydrolysis is already in use in other countries, such as Ireland, Canada and USA. This consultation sets out the safeguards which would be put in place to ensure alkaline hydrolysis would be subject to the same high standards as burial and cremation.

Public Health Minister Jenni Minto, right,  said: “Bereavement can be emotionally overwhelming and being able to engage with the practical issues and funeral arrangements can be very difficult.

“However, it is something everyone is likely to experience at some stage in their life, whether it’s the death of a family member, a loved one, or a friend.

“Having confidence in the care and dignity given to our loved ones, along with the compassionate and professional treatment of those bereaved, can go some way to alleviating that distress. The rare instances where this does not happen satisfactorily can have long-standing impacts on people.

“This is why we need to ensure we get the right policy and legal frameworks in place and I urge anyone with views on the issues in these consultations to take the time to respond.”

National Association of Funeral Directors Scotland President Mark Shaw said:  “The National Association of Funeral Directors is delighted to welcome and support the public consultations into key areas that will help shape the funeral sector in a new, regulated landscape.

“These new regulations designed to support the oversight of standards in the funeral sector will provide reassurance and security to bereaved people and funeral directors, while the proposed introduction of alkaline hydrolysis, or water cremation, is a step forward in offering future alternatives to burial and cremation.

“These are incredibly important next steps to support bereaved people, and we urge everyone to have their say.”

National Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) Scotland President James Morris said: “SAIF Scotland are encouraged to see the process of regulation reach the public consultation stage.

“Regulation of the Scottish funeral sector will maintain and ensure the high standards of funeral service, care of the deceased and delivery to the tens of thousands of families in need of a funeral director each year.

“SAIF Scotland looks forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government on what has been an open and consultative process and has thoughtfully addressed concerns shared by both the Government and the funeral sector.“

The consultations close on 17 November 2023.

Leave a Reply