Stirling Debate marks historic moment for Scotland’s funeral profession

Funeral directors from across Scotland have committed to work with the Scottish Government to introduce regulation to the sector.

Members of the profession made the historic pledge at a special one day conference in Stirling on Saturday 1 April. The event was attended by around 100 representatives of independent funeral directing businesses and the largest firms, including Co-op Funeralcare and Dignity.

Jointly organised by the National Association of Funeral Directors Scotland (NAFD Scotland) and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors Scotland (SAIF Scotland), the event began with the signing of a joint agreement by the two trade associations, whose membership comprises more than 80 per cent of the funeral profession.

This agreement was submitted to The Scottish Government and represents a formal commitment to work with Scottish Ministers to develop a set of Regulations that will be proportionate and appropriate and will ultimately benefit bereaved people.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “Regulating funeral directors businesses is an important step in ensuring that bereaved families receive the best possible care at a time when they are potentially very vulnerable. I very much welcome the commitment made by NAFD (Scotland) and SAIF (Scotland) to work with us to develop a regulatory scheme that reflects the diverse nature of the funeral profession in Scotland and ensures quality of service for the people of Scotland.”

The joint agreement, which is a public document, sets out a series of guiding principles for both organisations to follow in the development of regulation. These include the need to ensure safety and public health and to work in the public interest.

The document also states that its purpose “is to facilitate the contribution of all funeral directors, suppliers and those with an interest in the industry to the regulatory developments under the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016, in the public interest.”

The Stirling Debate featured a panel discussion and workshops which considered potential challenges associated with regulation such as how cross border funeral directors might be affected and what should be the minimum standards of the new regime. It also considered the implications for families in the event that a funeral business was closed for breach of Government regulations.

Speaking after the Stirling Debate, Mandie Lavin, Chief Executive of the NAFD, said the funeral profession stood ready to work in a positive and transparent way in order to help The Scottish Government develop effective regulation.

“The Stirling Debate was an incredibly important moment in the history of the funeral profession. Our forefathers lobbied for regulation in the 19th century but for one reason or another it didn’t happen. We’re now on the cusp of delivering a new settlement for bereaved people in Scotland which I’m sure will have a positive impact across the remainder of the UK.

“Many professions resist Government regulation but not the funeral profession. I’m incredibly proud to be part of a sector that is embracing this change in such a positive way because ultimately everyone can see how, if done well, this will benefit bereaved people. Care of bereaved people is every good funeral director’s overriding goal,”
Ms Lavin said.

Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of SAIF, said: “This is an important step for consumer protection. While many funeral directors are members of a trade body, whether that be SAIF or the NAFD, which monitors, supports and in the rare incident expels a firm from membership for poor practice, the Scottish Government recognises the need to protect best practice and add teeth to standards of service.

“We believe that together, SAIF and the NAFD can serve the bereaved and national government by collaborating at a strategic level to ensure that client service is benchmarked at excellence and service fees do not exponentially increase due to a burdensome regulatory framework – it can be a win win.”

Following the Stirling Debate, members of NAFD Scotland and SAIF Scotland are planning a similar event for autumn 2017, in order to gauge views and develop a set of information and data that will inform the development of regulation. The two associations are also working together to strengthen codes of practice and complaints procedures.