A BBC Scotland report has revealed that the basic cost of a funeral in Scotland has risen on average by an incredible 77 percent since 2010.
In Scotland, the average funeral costs £3,600, and The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index for 2017 estimates that the average debt take on equals £1,680.
The Citizens Advice Scotland says 10 percent of families in Scotland struggle to pay the bill.
Jim Brodie, from the Scottish Association of Independent Funeral Directors, said council charges for internment and cremation were “immoral”, although the local government body, Cosla, said such fees were based on needs and circumstances.
The BBC asked for information on basic costs for internment in Scotland through the freedom of information powers. Prices ranged from £310 in the Western Isles to more than £1,000 in Edinburgh. The Scottish average was £705—77 percent higher than eight years ago.
Average fees for cremation across 14 local Scottish authorities increased by 46 percent to £685 at the same time. Other notable findings were that internment fees in Shetland increased by 355 percent (£110 to £500), and in South Lanarkshire by 151 percent.
Mr Brodie accused local authorities of subjecting grieving families to a “postcode lottery”, thanks to the wide variety of levied fees.
A spokesperson for Shetland Council told the BBC the reason for its increase was to bring Shetland in line with other comparable areas in the Scotland, and that they offered payment by instalment to those who couldn’t afford it.
South Lanarkshire Council said burial costs increased between 2010 and 2015 in the area, and that the increases enabled the authority to extend cemeteries and improve the general infrastructure throughout the area.
Tackle funeral poverty
The Scottish Government’s Communities Secretary Angela Constance said the government was “absolutely determined” to tackled funeral poverty in the country. Next year the government is to introduce a new funeral expenses payment, which should widen the eligibility for the benefit.
A new not-for-profit organisation, Caledonian Cremations, offers direct cremations—i.e. where there is no service and only a cremation, for £1,000.
The BBC investigation also found that Greater Glasgow has some 25 unclaimed body in its mortuaries, six women and nineteen men where only eight have been identified. Those eight have not been buried because of either family disputes or cost, and one of those has been in the mortuary for more than 670 days.
Danny Curran, Finders International’s founder and managing director, said: “There are so many worrying aspects to this story—the huge rise in internment costs and how it varies from local authority to local authority, and the bodies that haven’t been claimed, perhaps because families can’t afford to bury their loved ones.
“The rise in funeral costs doesn’t just affect people in Scotland—they’re an issue UK-wide. We believe strong action is needed to stop this.
“We take corporate social responsibility seriously, and one of the initiatives we put in place in recent years was the establishment of a funeral fund which helps councils with some of the costs for people who die in their care, and who appear to have no relatives who can pay for their burial or cremation. Councils are hard-pushed, and this issue is only going to get worse.”