Planned changes to Scottish law mean that funeral directors based in the country will become regulated by the government. The latest draft of the code of practice was released in January 2023 and is currently under review. Once it’s approved, all funeral directors in Scotland will need to follow set rules about how they provide services and support.
We’ve summarised the planned changes and what they’ll mean for people planning a funeral in Scotland.
Laws that will only apply in Scotland
Once the new funeral regulations are rolled out, there will be some laws that will apply only in Scotland.
Funeral directors will be regulated by the Scottish Government
Funeral directors are not regulated by the government in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. There’s no official code of practice for funeral directors and they aren’t inspected by any regulatory body.
In Scotland, however, things are a little different. The Scottish Government has created its own code of practice for funeral directors.
This code is currently being revised and isn’t yet in force. But when it does come into force, it will apply to all funeral directors that operate in Scotland. These funeral directors will be inspected to make sure they’re following the rules.
The most recent draft of the code was published in January 2023. In its introduction, it explains how it was created and what it hopes to achieve:
The Code has been informed by the knowledge and expertise of members of the funeral profession and is guided by principles of responsible practice. The desired outcome […] is that every person in Scotland will have a dignified and respectful funeral and bereaved families can be reassured that good standards of care will be provided.
What does the code say?
The code will govern how funeral directors provide funeral care. It covers things like:
- How funeral directors communicate with customers
- How funeral directors care for a person who has died
- How funerals are arranged
- How ashes are stored
- Complaints procedures
- The condition and presentation of funeral homes
Scottish funeral directors will have to apply for a licence
As well as creating a code of practice, the Scottish Government will implement a licensing scheme for funeral directors.
When this happens, funeral directors will need to apply for a licence to do their job. A business that acts as a funeral director without a licence will be fined.
A group of funeral professionals is helping to develop the scheme. The group includes representatives from funeral directors like Co-op and Scotmid, along with members of funeral trade associations.
In 2018, Scotland’s former inspector of funeral directors submitted a report explaining how the scheme should work. It said:
The bereaved find themselves in a very vulnerable position following the death of a loved one. Whether through lack of knowledge or understanding or simply through a need to do what they consider right by the deceased, wrong choices and decisions can be made which may have long-term implications. It is therefore important that they are guided by trained and qualified individuals who are also judged to be ethical and transparent in all their dealings. Only by efficient and effective Government regulation can the public be properly protected.
How did these changes come about?
The proposed funeral rules in Scotland are the result of new laws enacted in 2016. These laws were laid out in an Act of Scottish Parliament called the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.
The act asked the Scottish Government to create the code of practice and allowed for the creation of the licensing scheme. It also allowed for the appointment of inspectors, who would look at key areas of the funeral industry and recommend changes.
The first of these – an inspector of funeral directors – was appointed in April 2017.
Funeral laws that apply in all parts of the UK
These laws apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as Scotland.
Funeral directors must publish standardised price lists
All UK funeral directors must publish a list of prices that follows a standard format. The list shows prices for attended funerals, unattended funerals and any associated fees.
This was made law in September 2021, following recommendations by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
To learn more about CMA price lists and what they mean, read our guide.
Funeral plans are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority
As of July 2022, companies that provide funeral plans are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
This means customers are better protected. They’ll now receive compensation if their provider runs out of money. And if something goes wrong, they’re able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman.
Read our guide to funeral plans for more information.
Voluntary guidelines for funeral directors
The UK funeral industry has 2 major trade associations: the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and the Society of Allied and Independent Funerals (SAIF).
Both organisations publish guidelines that set good standards for funeral directors to follow. However, these guidelines are voluntary. Funeral directors don’t have to join the NAFD or SAIF and they don’t have to follow the guidelines if they’re not a member.
Learn more about UK funeral regulations
- CMA funeral price lists explained
- What is a funeral plan?
- What do to if someone dies without a will in Scotland
Are you planning a funeral? You can find a funeral director near you using Funeral Choice’s free search tool. You’ll also find lots of helpful guides in our funeral planning advice centre.