THE NEXT stage of headstone safety checks are to be launched at three Borders cemeteries.

More than 1,800 headstones have been flattened in recent years amid fears the structures could topple over.

But the policy led to protests from bereaved families who claimed it was a desecration of the cherished memorials.

Scottish Borders Council manages 155 cemeteries and burial grounds across the region, of which 146 fall under a programme of routine Headstone Safety Inspection.

While government guidance states lairholders are responsible for maintenance and repair of their headstones and memorials, SBC as a burial authority has a legal obligation to ensure public safety and, as far as is reasonably practicable, that cemeteries are maintained in a safe condition.

A pilot scheme of re-erecting headstones was carried out at Lennel Cemetery in Coldstream last year, where 52 memorials were identified as being suitable for reinstatement.

Based on the lessons learned from that trial a new partnership approach with private contractors has been agreed.

The local authority will now signpost memorial owners to these contractors immediately at the point of making a headstone safe.

This gives the memorial owners certainty over next steps and over costs for any repair works, mitigating any unnecessary distress.

The council is also exploring financial support that may be offered where affordability remains a possible barrier.

Now the Headstone Safety Testing programme is to continue at Wilton Cemetery in Hawick (at the Burghal & Burghal South sections);  Innerleithen (New Cemetery) and Peebles (New Cemetery – sections NC, A & B).

A SBC spokesperson said: “Headstones which are deemed to be unsafe will either be socketed, laid flat or cordoned off.

“We will be placing signs at any headstones which have failed the safety inspection and have had to be made safe providing relevant information for families.”

If you have any questions regarding any aspect of headstone testing and making safe, contact can be made with the Bereavement Services Team on 0300 100 1800 or via email