Draft statutory guidance on funeral costs: consultation

This consultation document seeks views on draft statutory guidance on funeral costs for local authorities, burial and cremation authorities and funeral directors.

Section 2: Outline and purpose of the draft guidance


9. During the passage of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 (the Act), issues were raised regarding the cost of funerals, charge setting by local authorities for burial and cremation, and transparency of pricing.

10. As a result, an amendment was made to the Act to introduce Section 98, which makes provision for Scottish Ministers to publish “guidance on the costs associated with making arrangements for a funeral”. Publication of statutory guidance on funeral costs is Action 2 of the Scottish Government’s Funeral Costs Plan.

11. According to the Cremation Society of Great Britain, more funerals in Scotland involve a cremation (68%) than a burial. Local authorities provide burial services in their local area, along with private cemetery providers. In addition, 12 local authorities in Scotland also run crematoriums. There are 16 non-local authority crematoriums currently operating in Scotland. One of these, at Glasgow Crematorium (formerly known as Maryhill), is a charity. The others are private businesses.

12. Cremation is generally less expensive than burial. In The Cost of Saying Goodbye 2017, Citizens Advice Scotland ( CAS) reported that the average charge for an adult cremation in 2017 was £738, compared with £1,428 for burial. Among crematoriums, prices ranged from £586 to £999 for an adult cremation.

13. People paying for a funeral usually do this through a funeral director, who will charge for their services and will usually collect fees on behalf of the cemetery or crematorium.

14. There are approximately 450 individual funeral director businesses in Scotland. This figure does not include the multiple branches of bigger businesses like Co-op Funeralcare or Dignity which are counted as one business. Funeral directors may be members of the National Association of Funeral Directors ( NAFD) or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors ( SAIF). Some funeral directors are members of both trade organisations, while others are members of neither.

15. In April 2017 the Scottish Government appointed an Inspector of Funeral Directors. An Inspector of Crematoria has been in post since April 2015 and an Inspector of Burials will be appointed in due course. We are liaising with the current inspectors to understand any overlaps and impacts of our draft funeral costs guidance on their work.

Scope and audience

16. Section 98 of the Act states that “the Scottish Ministers may publish guidance on the costs associated with making arrangements for a funeral”, and that “the guidance may in particular cover the desirability of such costs being affordable”. Before issuing such guidance, Scottish Ministers must consult burial authorities, cremation authorities, funeral directors and any other persons they consider appropriate. This public consultation forms part of our consultation work to fulfil the Section 98 requirement to consult, and we are also engaging with those with an interest in the draft guidance in other ways.

17. On 1 June 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority ( CMA) announced that it would undertake a market study of the UK funeral market. This study includes a number of issues that the Scottish Government has already been considering as part of our work to develop draft guidance on funeral costs. We welcome the CMA market study and if any initial findings from the CMA’s work are available later this year then these will be used to inform further development of our guidance.

18. Also on 1 June 2018, the UK Government launched a call for evidence in relation to the regulation of the pre-paid funeral plan sector. The Scottish Government has urged the UK Government to take action to improve consumer protection in this area and so we welcome this announcement.

19. The draft guidance in this consultation sets out steps that burial authorities, cremation authorities and funeral directors can take to improve transparency and availability of funeral pricing information. These steps are designed to help consumers to understand the costs associated with making arrangements for a funeral and choose the right option for them.

20. While recognising that local authorities are responsible for setting their burial and cremation charges and will take into account local circumstances, the draft guidance also includes a section specifically for local authorities on charge setting and tackling funeral poverty.

21. To produce the draft guidance, the Scottish Government established three working groups to explore issues associated with funeral costs and to provide expert knowledge. These working groups included local authorities (as public burial and cremation authorities), the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA), private crematoriums, the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management ( ICCM), the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities ( FBCA), the National Association of Funeral Directors ( NAFD) and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors ( SAIF).

22. We have visited individual funeral directors, burial authorities and cremation authorities to better understand cost drivers, business processes and the practical considerations of their work. In producing this draft guidance, we have also engaged with the Scottish Government’s Funeral Expense Assistance and Funeral Poverty Reference Group and the Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty.


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