Leader comment: Easing the agony of burying a child

The Scottish Government should follow England's example and cover council charges for interment

South of the Border, councils have abolished charges for the burials of children.

There are few things crueller than the death of a child. It is a loss of such life-altering magnitude that it seems incredible bereaved parents are able to carry on.

Obviously, crucial to a family’s ability to get through this most difficult time is the support of those around them. This support should not come solely from friends and relatives. The state has its part to play, too.

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South of the Border, councils have abolished charges for the burials of children. This is a small but important gesture, removing a level of bureaucratic and financial stress from parents already trying to get through the darkest days of their lives.

The Labour MP Carolyn Harris – who had to get a loan to pay for her eight-year-old son Martin’s funeral – has played a leading role in persuading local authorities across England and Wales to waive the cost of burying a child. Now she wants Scotland to follow suit.

Ms Harris has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asking the Scottish Government to step in and cover interment fees which are still charged by eight councils.

We sincerely hope the First Minister is sympathetic to Ms Harris’s request. Around 400 Scottish families lose a child each year and with burial costs reaching as much as £800, many are forced into debt just to see that their son or daughter is laid to rest with dignity.

In the great scheme of thing, the cost to the Scottish Government of covering these charges would be negligible yet the impact would be huge.

Currently, parents may or may not be charged for their child’s interment depending on where in the country they live. The existence of this bleak lottery is not acceptable.

The Scotsman believes that there are debates to be had about the value of universal benefits in a number of areas but common decency says no discussion is required in this instance.

We Scots are fond of telling ourselves – and anyone who cares to listen – that we are a peculiarly compassionate people with an innate sense of right and wrong.

Perhaps this is the view seen in a rose-tinted mirror but if we aspire to see the decent, fair society that we so often say we do, then the case for ending charges for the burial of children is cut and dried.

Nicola Sturgeon has the power to do the right thing. We hope she does just that.