Funeral Director Licensing Working Group minutes: May 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 17 May 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • James Blackburn, Scotmid Funerals
  • Ephraim Borowski, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
  • Rachel Bradburne, National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
  • Jim Brodie, Brodie’s Funerals
  • Andrew Brown, Co-op Funeralcare
  • Ross Corse, John Corse Funerals
  • Graeme Easton, British Institute of Funeral Directors (BIFD)
  • Bobby Hopkin-Hoggarth, British Institute of Embalmers (BIE)
  • John MacLean, Highland Council
  • David MacColl, Scottish Bereavement Benchmarking Group (SBBG)
  • Rizy Mohammed, National Burial Council
  • Joseph Murren, National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
  • Margaret Paterson, Pushing Up the Daisies
  • Mark Porteous, Porteous Funerals
  • Tim Purves, William Purves Funeral Directors
  • Terry Tennens, SAIF
  • Robert Swanson, Senior Inspector of Burial, Cremation and Funeral Directors
  • Gordon Findlater, Inspector of Burial, Cremation and Funeral Directors

Scottish Government

  • Sinéad Power, Head of Health Protection Division (chair)
  • Katrina McNeill, Burial and Cremation Team
  • Kim Hunter, Burial and Cremation Team (minutes)
  • Elliot Paton, Burial and Cremation Team from 6 June (observing only)


  • Gerry Boyle, Dignity
  • Brian Corrigan, Cruse Bereavement Care (resigned from Group)
  • Nick Britten, National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

The meeting was opened and members were thanked for joining the working group. Members introduced themselves and gave a brief overview of their role and interests in the area and an overview of the meeting agenda. Apologies were noted.

Overview of Burial and Cremation (Scotland) 2016 Act – paper 1.2

A summary of Paper 1.2: Overview of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) 2016 Act and sections 94 – 96 – Licensing of Funeral Directors was given. An update was also provided on other work being progressed by the Burial and Cremation Team, including the inspection regulations, funeral director: code of practice and the Burial Regulations Working Group.  It was noted that there is some interaction among the work streams.

SG officials expressed hope that the licensing regulations can be laid in the Scottish Parliament by the end of 2023, however, noting that this is dependent on a number of factors including Parliamentary schedules.

The group was content with this paper and intended outcomes.

Working group governance 

Membership of the working group – Paper 1.3

The group discussed the membership and were asked to note if there were any unrepresented groups:

  • questions were raised about including other faith representatives. Officials’ noted that a survey of faith groups had already been carried out and only Jewish and Muslim faiths were identified as being affected by the regulations
  • the group discussed including bereavement groups, hospice and care home representative and members of the public. It was raised that, due to the technical and sensitive nature of discussions, it might not be appropriate to have members of the public on the group. It was noted that there will be a public consultation on the licencing regulations. The Scottish Parliament committee appointed to lead on the regulations is also likely to request evidence as part of its considerations
  • members agreed to consider creating a wider reference group that might be asked to “sense check” decisions made by the group
  • members discussed whether to include a funeral planning finance company, but the licensing regulations will not impact the work of those companies, which are overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority

The group agreed that the membership list be published on the SG website.

Action 1: Officials agreed to consider membership and need for reference group.

Action 2: Officials to publish the list of members on the SG website.

Draft remit of the working group – paper 1.4

The Group was asked to comment on the draft remit of the group, detailing the policy development which will inform the licensing scheme for funeral directors and regulations. The group was content with the remit of the working group and agreed that the remit could be published on the Scottish Government website.

Action 3: Officials to publish the agreed remit on the SG website.

Draft discussion topics for meetings one to three – paper 1.5

The group discussed Paper 1.5, setting out the order of topics for consideration at each meeting. It was suggested that licensing fees be moved to meeting two.  Officials agreed to consider if this topic is sufficiently developed to bring forward.

The group is content for the minutes of each meeting to be published on the Scottish Government website once agreed by the group

Action 4: Officials to consider order of topics for meetings two and three.

Action 5: Officials to publish the agreed minutes of each meeting on the SG website.

Definition of funeral director in the 2016 Act – paper 1.6

A brief overview of paper 1.6 was provided giving the definition of a funeral director as set out in legislation. The paper details examples of activities which fall into the categories of arranging and conducting a funeral. The activities provide basis for what might be subject to licensing, with care of the deceased as the key feature.

The group had been invited to provide comments on the paper in advance. Twelve were received and KM provided a brief summary. The topic of what activities will be licensed is on the agenda for the next meeting and the group can provide any additional written comments by 10 June. A written summary of the comments will be sent to the Group before the next meeting.

The group discussed the activities and a number of questions and points were raised:

  • it was noted that sometimes arranging a funeral and some of the activities listed are carried out by volunteers for some faith groups. One member of the group commented that introducing licensing may lead to volunteers not continuing if they are required to be licenced. The issue of what/ who will be licensed was raised and whether it is the business itself or the individual. The group discussed whether faith groups and non-profit organisation volunteers should be exempt from needing to be licensed. Officials noted the concerns and highlighted that the aim of the licensing scheme is to ensure good standards for the care of the deceased and the bereaved. A number of members disagreed with the suggestion that some groups be exempt and consider anyone carrying out the activities involved in caring for the deceased should be held to the same standards and licensed
  • the group discussed whether embalmers should be captured in the scheme. The majority view was that embalming should be regulated
  • the group was content that detailed discussion take place at the next meeting

Action 6: Group members to provide any additional comments by 10 June 2022.

Action 7: Officials to send summary of comments to the Group before next meeting.

Topics for discussion – paper 1.7

Paper 1.7 sets out some detail about the discussion topics for the meeting: the process for introducing the licensing scheme, proposed requirement for funeral directors to be inspected prior to being fully license and the duration of a licence period.

Discussion on introducing licensing and interim licences:

  • the Group discussed the concept of interim licences and whether they should be automatically issued to all or if funeral directors will be required to apply. Some thought requiring applications would help capture all those who would need to have a licence
  • some members requested more clarity on what will be licensed: the business as a whole, individual branches or individuals. This topic is on the agenda for the next meeting
  • members discussed how long an interim licence might last for. Officials noted that they would likely last for up to two – three years as the inspectorate will need time to inspect and licence every funeral director business. The Group noted that some are likely to apply for a full licence as soon as possible, while others may wish to wait until nearer the end of the interim period. Options for managing applications will be considered. One suggestion was to add a condition that the full licence should be applied for within a specified number of weeks after the first inspection
  • it was suggested that conditions be attached to interim licences, such as agreeing to operate in accordance with the Funeral Director Code of Practice and a ban on advertising as being “licensed by the Scottish Government” before a full licence is issued. Licence conditions are on the agenda for meeting two
  • the group agreed it is appropriate to have licence fees and preferred the fee be based on the number of funerals conducted, rather than a flat fee, which could have an adverse impact on smaller businesses and individuals. It was noted that this could be a particular issue in more remote communities
  • the possibility of exemptions or discount on the licence fee for faith groups was raised. The majority of the group disagreed noting that all organisations who carry out the activities which will be subject to licensing should pay the fee
  • members agreed that there should be an appeals process within the licensing scheme, and the detail of how this could work is included in the agenda for meeting three
  • members agreed that the licensing scheme should set the standard for those joining the sector and agreed that a licence should be applied for before someone can start up a business

Discussion on inspections before a full licence is granted and the frequency of inspection during licence period:

  • the group discussed the merits of announced and unannounced inspections. Inspectors will be able to do both once the inspection regulations are in force
  • announced visits have the benefit of ensuring that inspectors will not have a wasted journey. The Senior Inspector confirmed that all crematorium inspections are planned and that this works well, ensuring availability of staff. Inspectors also noted that unannounced inspections would be appropriate in some circumstances, such as when dealing with a complaint. The Group consensus was that the first inspection should be announced
  • officials confirmed there will be a risk based inspection regime, and that the intention is to follow an improvement approach
  • members agreed that each licence holder should be inspected at least once during each licence period with the option to carry out additional inspections

Discussion on the duration of full licences:

  • a potential licence period of three years was discussed. This period is comparative with the appointment period for inspectors. Members agreed three years is reasonable and would not be overly burdensome on those being inspected or on inspectors
  • members discussed other occasions when the licence period might need to be varied and considered that it may be appropriate when there is any significant change to business, including but not limited to a change of owner, to require a review of the licence and possible re-application
  • members queried whether it would be appropriate for someone to be able to set up a new business immediately where their application for a full licence was refused or if their licence was revoked. The Group agreed this area needs further consideration during the discussion on licence conditions (meeting two)

Any other business and date of next meeting

The Group was thanked for their attendance and input at the meeting.

The next meeting will now be held on 23 August 2022 via Microsoft Teams.

Action 8: Secretarial to circulate the draft minutes, action points and papers for the next meeting in advance.

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