The divided nature of ownership within graveyards (gravestones and other funerary structures are heritable property and as such do not belong to the graveyard owner) results in a lack of clarity over responsibilities and inhibits joined-up management (Figure 96). Assessing a gravestone or graveyard's significance and condition is challenging. This is due to the sheer number of monuments and sites that exist but also because of the diverse range of forms they can take (Figures 45‒53). We currently lack information of sufficient detail to enable even a basic assessment of what survives, and in what condition, or to carry out preliminary analytical groupings to create for example monument chronologies (Section 3). Anecdotal evidence clearly shows best practice guidance is not informing the day-to-day care of graveyards (Figures 89, 96‒98, 103) and the risks arising from changes to burial legislation are presently unclear. There are limited resources available to care for this considerable resource. A local authority audit of graveyards in Aberdeenshire, found the absence of paperwork relating to the ownership of graveyards cast uncertainties over for the statutory responsibilities to maintain sites. This situation is unlikely to change and accordingly there is an urgent need to develop conservation policies tailored to maintenance and current management priorities. The Edinburgh graveyards: Case Study 20 is a good example of a graveyard project informed by a research strategy (for more details see Buckham 2013a).
Figure 104: Many owners of historic gravestones cannot be traced. In cases where families have died out this leaves stones effectively ownerless. View of Kilmore Churchyard, Dervaig, Mull. © Sally Foster