SPECIALLY trained council staff will carry out headstone testing in Peebles Cemetery this September.

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is raising awareness about its headstone safety programme, across cemeteries in the Borders, ahead of the works in the town. 

Last month SBC parks and environment manager Carol Cooke spoke at the Royal Burgh of Peebles and District Community Council, while social media and signage is also being used to spread the message.

Ms Cooke said: “The programme is required to make sure that everyone who visits or works within the cemeteries stays safe, in line with statutory legislation and guidance issued by Scottish Government in 2019.

“Guidance was published after the sad fatality of a child in a cemetery in Scotland, caused by a falling headstone.” 

During the previous round of testing in 2019 families were left devastated when more than 700 headstones were laid flat at Peebles Cemetery.

Among the flattened stones were memorials to babies and soldiers killed in the wars.

This year’s programme will see the newer parts of Peebles Cemetery – sections NC, A, B and C – undergo safety inspections, with in-house staff checking headstone stability. 

Any headstones that are deemed to be a safety risk require to be made safe immediately – this can be via laying flat or ‘socketing’ the headstone into the ground.

Ms Cooke said: “This is only done where absolutely necessary, and is carried out in accordance with guidelines.

“It is recognised that this is a hugely emotive and sensitive issue.

“If you have a family headstone in Peebles Cemetery, and have any questions, please get in touch.” 

Since the previous round of testing, SBC has made some significant changes to the programme.

It is carried out fully in-house by dedicated staff and signage is put in place adjacent to affected headstones.

Ms Cooke said: “A partnership approach has been developed with local monumental masons, with leaflets produced containing information on what to do next if your family’s stone has been made safe. 

“Given the value of Peebles Cemetery the council wants to work in partnership with the community and with memorial owners in making sure everyone remains safe and understands why and what is happening.

“The council is encouraging families with headstones in the newer part of Peebles Cemetery to have them inspected, and any necessary permanent repairs carried out, before the programme starts, if they wish.” 

An SBC spokesperson added: “The council’s headstone testing programme is an extremely emotive and complex subject.

“Laying headstones flat is only ever done when they present an immediate risk to public safety and we would like to assure the public that all the work we undertake is done in a sensitive and respectful manner and only ever by fully trained staff.

“Our new partnership approach, in collaboration with local specialist monumental masons, has seen us develop a new notification procedure including a standardised fee scale for repair works, enabling memorial owners to undertake reinstatement works.”