Funeral director licensing scheme: consultation analysis report

Analysis report of our consultation on the funeral director licensing scheme for Scotland.

1. Introduction

This report presents the analysis of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on the “Funeral director licensing scheme for Scotland”, which was open or responses between 25 August and 17 November 2023. It received 32 responses.

The purpose of this consultation was to seek views on proposals for regulations for funeral director licensing, which, if implemented, would create a licensing regime for funeral directors. The proposals contained within the consultation are an essential step in ensuring that a modern and comprehensive regulatory framework for the funeral sector is realised.

The current consultation was published as part of a collection of consultations relating to the content of various sets of regulations that will be made under the 2016 Act which have not yet been implemented. They related to:


The 2016 Act received Royal Assent in April 2016. It provides much-needed modernisation and improvement of processes for burial, cremation, and funeral services. It replaced legislation which was well over 100 years old, and provides the framework for a regulation system which meets the needs of modern Scotland.

Sections 94 and 95 of the 2016 Act give Scottish Ministers the power to decide whether to establish a licensing scheme for funeral director businesses.

Funeral director businesses operating in Scotland are not currently subject to industry specific statutory regulation besides that which has been commenced under the 2016 Act. They do not have to be registered with a regulatory body or hold a licence by law in order to operate as a funeral director.

On a non-statutory basis, representative bodies for funeral directors do support their members to meet professional standards that those bodies set and provide information to the bereaved. These include the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). Standards are set by each organisation and are set out in their own non-statutory Codes of Practice.

Proposed Licensing Scheme

The aim of the Scottish Government’s proposed licensing scheme is set out in the 2023 consultation paper. Overall, the regulatory framework to which the licensing regulations will contribute are intended to regulate the industry in its care and handling of the deceased.

The content of the proposed licensing scheme was also set out in detail in the consultation paper, for the purposes of seeking public responses to the proposals. To enable operation of any licensing scheme, the regulations to be developed following this consultation analysis will set out details about how the licensing scheme is intended to operate.

The proposals to introduce a funeral director business licensing scheme follow engagement with the funeral industry. The first Inspector of Funeral Directors was appointed by Scottish Ministers in 2017 (by virtue of section 89(1) of the 2016 Act) to review the funeral sector in Scotland. This progressed recommendations by the National Cremation Investigation and helped to fulfil the recommendations of the Infant Cremation Commission. Following engagement with the industry, including voluntary inspections of funeral director businesses, the Inspector published a report in August 2019. The report made recommendations to Scottish Ministers about how funeral directors should be regulated, including that a licensing scheme should be introduced. Scottish Minsters agreed with the findings and recommendations of the report, and in August 2019 the previous Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing announced the Scottish Government's intention to develop a licensing scheme for funeral director businesses.

In preparation for developing a licensing scheme, officials convened a Funeral Director Licensing Working Group with members from the industry, public sector and third sector. The Working Group met three times throughout 2022 and 2023, bringing a range of stakeholders in to discuss and shape views on the proposals contained within this consultation.

Broader Funeral Sector Regulation

Funeral director businesses in Scotland arrange and conduct approximately 62,000 funerals per year.[2] Existing evidence from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)[3] and the industry itself[4] suggests that the UK public assumes funeral directors are already regulated or, at least, have to meet minimum standards. At present there is little current Scottish regulation specifically applicable to funeral directors other than the provisions of the 2016 Act which have been commenced to date.

It is recognised that any licensing scheme for funeral directors would require to be complementary to the intended inspection regime for funeral directors, burial authorities and cremation authorities (see 2023 inspection regulations consultation), providing greater oversight for, and transparency about, the industry. It is intended that, under the proposed inspection regulations, inspectors will inspect funeral director businesses to assess their compliance with the 2016 Act, regulations, conditions of any licence and the Funeral Director Code of Practice[5].

The Consultation

The current consultation was split into sections with specific questions on proposals relating to:

  • The Licensing Authority
  • A Directory of Funeral Directors Operating in Scotland
  • Compliance Officer
  • Duration, Expiry and Renewal of Licences
  • Suspension and Revocation of Licences
  • Licence Fees

The consultation consisted of 14 consultation questions. Four of these consultation questions were closed survey-style questions requiring a fixed response to be selected from a list of options. The remainder were open questions either inviting further explanation of preceding choices in fixed response questions or inviting broader comments on the proposals.

The consultation document remains available on the Scottish Government website.

This consultation on the funeral director licensing scheme will be the first of two consultations on this topic. Before laying a draft of the licensing regulations before the Scottish Parliament, section 105 of the 2016 Act requires the Scottish Ministers to prepare, and then consult on, a draft of the licensing regulations. Following this consultation, which Scottish Ministers intend to prepare in due course, section 105 also requires any draft licensing regulations laid before the Scottish Parliament to be accompanied by a document summarising the consultation responses and describing any changes made to the draft regulations following the consultation.

Profile of Respondents

The Scottish Government was keen for the consultation to gather a broad range of the views of funeral directors, local authorities, private burial or cremation authorities, funeral industry trade body representatives and any other groups or individuals with a working knowledge of, or interest in, funeral directing, burial, cremation or the wider funeral industry. The Scottish Government also wanted to hear from members of the public.

The consultation received 32 responses, and responses were received from all groups. Most responses (n=25) were received though the Scottish Government’s online consultation hub, ‘Citizen Space’, and a further seven were received by email.

Of the total respondents, 81% (n=26) were submitted on behalf of an organisation, and 19% (n=6) were from individuals. Of those who identified as ‘individuals’, when asked if they worked in a sector related to the funeral sector, 50% (n=3) said they worked in related professions. Organisation respondents were asked to identify which organisation they were responding on behalf of and categorise the sector areas to which the organisation belongs.[6] Table 1 provides further detail on the number of respondents in each subcategory. Responses were received from those representing funeral directing organisations, burial and cremation authorities, local government, relevant trade bodies, faith organisations, health bodies, third sector organisations and those working in other areas related to the funeral sector e.g. sales. Responses from individuals included both those working within, and outside, the funeral sector.

Table 1: Distribution of responses by category and subcategory of respondents
Responding as an Individual or on behalf of Organisation Subcategory of employment/organisation Number of responses Percentage of all respondents (n=32)
Individual Funeral Directing 2 6%
Burial Authority 0 0%
Cremation Authority 0 0%
Other area of the funeral sector 1 3%
I don’t work in the funeral sector 3 9%
Total individuals 6 19%
Organisation Funeral director business/organisation 6 19%
Trade body for funeral directors 1 3%
Burial authority only 5 16%
Cremation authority only 0 0%
Burial authority and cremation authority 2 6%
Trade body for burial authorities or cremation authorities 1 3%
Health body 1 3%
Local government 4 13%
Fath/religion based organisation 2 6%
Third sector 1 3%
Other organisation (e.g. guidance, sales) 3 9%
Total organisational responses 26 81%
Total Responses 32 100%

Analysis Methodology and Reporting

This report presents both quantitative and qualitative findings. Quantitative data were obtained from closed survey-style questions where respondents could select from predetermined choices (e.g. ‘yes/no’, ‘agree/disagree’). These data are presented in tables and charts to show the number of respondents selecting each possible answer.

Qualitative data were gathered from comments that respondents gave in response to open questions (where respondents were given free text boxes in which to respond). Unlike quantitative data, qualitative data allows for insights and understanding to be gained by looking at the detail of respondents’ answers, and is presented in this report as descriptive text and verbatim quotes from respondents.

Data Entry

Data from responses received by email were entered manually into Citizen Space and, as per best practice, the accuracy of a sample of the data entry checked by a second analyst. One response was received which did not follow the consultation question format and instead provided a single, long-form answer. Where possible, relevant sections of this response were analysed alongside the consultation questions to which they appeared best related. All remaining data from this non-standard response was analysed within Question 14 (‘Any other comments’).

All responses were downloaded from Citizen Space into a Microsoft Excel document. Data were analysed on a question by question basis except where questions linked to each other, for example when respondents were asked to give reasons for a selection in a previous question.

Data Analysis and Reporting

An analysis of responses to the consultation’s closed questions was conducted. The number of respondents answering each question is reported. The frequency of responses, and distribution of these responses based on respondent employment/organisation type, are reported in tables and stacked bar charts. Where percentages are given these are rounded to the nearest whole number, and represent a percentage of the total respondents answering the specific question, rather than the total number of respondents taking part in the consultation.

A thematic analysis of responses to the consultation’s open questions was conducted. This involved the qualitative data from these responses being read in detail by an analyst, patterns identified, text being ‘coded’ and themes constructed from these codes. The themes were used to summarise the key points made by respondents and the range of views expressed, both within each question and across the consultation.

Data from the consultation responses are reported descriptively, and supported by direct, anonymised quotations from respondents (where permission was given for responses to be published). Qualitative analysis does not normally quantify results, since useful insights might come from a minority of respondents. However, to assist the reader in interpreting the report, where appropriate some quantitative figures are given or descriptions like ‘majority’ or ‘minority’ used. For example, where a clear majority or minority of respondents have answered in a similar way, some references are made to this in the description of the response data to give a sense of the weight of response. However precise frequencies or percentages are mostly avoided when reporting the qualitative data due to the subjective nature of analysing these responses.

Findings are reported in the same order and groupings in which they were presented within the consultation. They are discussed in this report in the following sections:

2.1 The Licensing Authority: Question 1

2.2 Directory of Funeral Directors Operating in Scotland: Questions 2 and 3

2.3 Compliance Officer: Question 4

2.4 Duration, Expiry and Renewal of licences: Questions 5, 6 and 7

2.5 Suspension and Revocation of licences: Questions 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12

2.6 Licence Fees: Question 13

2.7 Additional Comments: Question 14



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