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What to do after a death in Scotland ... practical advice for times of bereavement: 9th Edition



The decision on whether to have a cremation or a burial will depend on a number of factors such as the person's own wishes, the views of the executor, the wishes of the person's next of kin and family, and the costs involved. If a death has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal, he will usually allow the body to be released for cremation or burial after establishing the cause of death. The Procurator Fiscal has to authorise the release of the body and written permission must be obtained before a cremation can be carried out. A form called an E1 is used and can be collected from the Procurator Fiscal's office. The funeral director will be in contact with the Procurator Fiscal and will be able to advise about when to make the funeral arrangements.


No one can be cremated until the cause of death is definitely known. Four forms from the funeral director or crematorium have to be completed. They are:

  • An application form signed by the next of kin or executor.
  • Two cremation certificates signed by the family doctor and another doctor who will charge for this. Note there will be charges for this, even if the death happened in hospital.
  • A third certificate signed by the medical referee at the crematorium. The medical referee has power to refuse cremation, require a post-mortem examination or refer the matter to the Procurator Fiscal.

Note that cremation cannot normally take place until the death has been registered and a certificate of registration of death issued by the registrar has been produced to the crematorium authorities.

If the death has been referred to the Procurator Fiscal, the two doctors' cremation certificates are not needed. The Procurator Fiscal will give a certificate for cremation.

If someone dies abroad

If someone dies abroad (including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) and you want to arrange a cremation in Scotland, you will need to get a cremation order from the Scottish Government Health Directorate. To apply for this, take or send the documents which accompany the body - amongst which must be a death certificate or equivalent, in English, showing clearly the cause of death - together with the application form for cremation to:

Scottish Government CMO and Public Health
Public Health Division
Health Protection Team
St Andrew's House
Edinburgh EH1 3DG

Normally this procedure will be undertaken on your behalf by the funeral directors who are making the funeral arrangements. If death occurred in England, Wales or Northern Ireland the procedure to arrange a cremation is the same as that to be followed when the death occurred in Scotland.


Most crematoria are run by a local authority. The charges usually include the medical referee's fee and use of the chapel, and may include the chaplain's fee for a short service.

The ashes

Ashes can be scattered in a garden of remembrance, or a favourite spot chosen by the dead person, buried in a churchyard or cemetery or kept in an urn. It is important to make quite clear your wishes about the ashes. If no wishes have been expressed, it is the responsibility of the crematorium staff to contact the relatives before disposal. Arrangements can be made for the placing of a memorial plaque at the crematorium.


Find out if the person had already paid for a lair in a churchyard or cemetery, by checking the will (see section 10) and looking through their papers for the necessary documents. You should give these to the funeral director. If not, you will have to buy one. Ask the funeral director how to arrange it.