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Newspaper’s grim discovery about the cost of dying

A Freedom of Information request submitted by a Scottish newspaper revealed that the cost of funerals has doubled, leading councils to be accused of imposing ‘death taxes’.

Scott Macnab, a  reporter at The Scotsman, wrote to 32 councils in Scotland to ask about the cost of funerals and received 26 replies.

He discovered that some councils have doubled their charges for burials and cremations in recent years, while others have increased them by more than 50pc.

In an article based on the findings the paper reports that people have accused local authorities of imposing ‘death taxes’ on bereaved families by raising cemetery costs to help pay for front line services.

It reveals that the amount of money raised from burial fees has jumped by almost £6 million over the last few years to more than £18m.

Said Scott: “FOIs can reveal some really good stories, but you do need to know what you’re looking for.

“These rising costs were something the Scotsman had been tipped off about. So from that starting point it was a pretty straightforward case of submitting the request to cover funerals and cremation costs.

 “In fairness to most councils in Scotland, they’re generally quite good at responding within the statutory 20 day limit  –  far more so than many national public bodies.”

The request revealed that the most expensive place to die in Scotland is Glasgow, where charges have jumped from £1,074 five years ago to £1,903 for the costs of a burial ceremony and cemetery lair.

The figures show that the revenue raised by Scotland’s biggest city has jumped from £1.44m two years ago to £2.1m last year.

The Freedom of Information request revealed that:

• Interment costs in South Lanarkshire have almost doubled since 2006-7, going up from £183 to £335. The total income collected by the authority has jumped from £358,753 to £608,695.

• Costs in Dundee soared from £567 to £1,023 for a coffin lair in recent years, while a cremation lair now costs £644, up from £370 from 2006-7.

• In the Borders the bill has jumped by more than 50pc for the cost of a burial lair and ceremony, from £603 to £872. Midlothian has seen the cost a cremation lair more than double from £129 to £262, while the cost of a burial lair has gone up from £318 to £488.

• The steepest increase in Scotland has been in East Lothian, where the cost of a burial ceremony and coffin lair has jumped from £419 five years ago to £893 this year.

• Councils collected £18.4m in burial charges last year, up from £17.2m in 2009-10. The figure five years ago

A spokesman for Glasgow council told the newspaper: “Unlike many other operators, our rates are all inclusive – we make no additional charges for doctors’ fees, music, urns, caskets and so on.”