Keeping standards high

words: Aileen Campbell MSP, Scottish Government Communities Secretary

The job funeral directors do is an important one. I know the industry in Scotland sets high standards of care and service at a time when individuals and families are coming to terms with the loss of a loved one.

The guidance we have published to improve the availability and transparency of information about funeral, burial and cremation costs is an important step that I hope will help keep those standards high.

I am very grateful for the positive way the industry has engaged with us as we developed these voluntary measures to help people make informed decisions when planning or organising a funeral. I was pleased to see SAIF welcoming the guidance when it was published on 16 May.

We want to help people understand, compare and choose the services that are right for them. To do that, they need to have access to clear and consistent information.

The guidance has a section for funeral directors, along with further recommendations covering burial authorities, cremation authorities and local authorities. A key element is around pricing, including recommendations to encourage improved transparency at the point of sale, such as clearly setting out the range and price of available funeral services, providing an itemised quote and a final bill.

Making pricing information available in a number of formats, including online, will also be a help to those planning a funeral.

We have worked closely across sectors to produce this guidance. Expert knowledge from three working groups that were established last year, including from SAIF, was integral to its development.

Last autumn, we consulted on draft guidance, and received a total of 49 separate responses from a broad range of organisations and individuals, including independent and large funeral directors, funeral director trade associations, COSLA, individual local authorities, and third sector organisations. We also received 15 responses from members of the public.

During our engagement process we heard about some of the benefits of the proposals. These included the view that providing transparency to the public was commendable, and that the provision of clearer information on costs may assist in reducing the issue of bad debt.

We also heard concerns about the proposals, and considered the key issues raised across the potential business, cost and regulatory impacts that may arise. We strived to ensure the guidance is proportionate, in particular recognising that many funeral directors are small businesses.

As the guidance is advisory and does not impose new requirements or conditions, the measures can be phased in over time, allowing any cost impacts to be minimised.

We are also committed to reviewing the guidance in the future, to ensure that it addresses any issues should they arise.

A wide range of stakeholder organisations and individuals, including funeral directors, have worked with the Scottish Government to develop this guidance. I have been encouraged by this willingness and we will continue to work with the industry during its implementation.

I am confident this guidance will improve transparency and help people to make well-informed decisions. I hope you, funeral directors, agree and adopt it for the benefit of your customers.

The guidance can be found here. A glossary of terms can be found here.

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