The use of unmarked shared graves for the poorest in Dundee and Angus should be reviewed and is not a sign of a “civilised society”, a city councillor has claimed.
The two councils currently lay one coffin on top of another in three-tiered graves when an individual or their family do not provide funds after death.
Both insist the practice is dignified, although family and friends are barred from laying tributes or flowers.
The higher cost of carrying out a cremation is believed to be one of the driving factors in shared grave use.
Dundee in particular has one of the highest cremations costs in Scotland.
Broughty Ferry councillor Craig Duncan said he would like to see public health funeral practices change.
He said: “The bottom line is, I don’t care who you are, you ought to be able to live your life with a measure of respect and depart this earth with dignity too.
“I think that’s the mark of a civilised society.
“On that basis, there probably is a basis for reviewing these procedures.”
Cost of cremations double that for burials
Local authorities across the UK must legally provide the interments, sometimes dubbed “pauper’s funerals”.
The no-frills service does not include flowers, viewings, obituaries or transport for family members.
They are becoming more common throughout the UK due to a surge in funeral costs.
Dundee is regularly ranked the most expensive place in Scotland for both burials and cremations.
Perth & Kinross council carry out the most public burials in Scotland, meaning it also spends the most.
Most councils across Scotland now chose to cremate remains instead of using the once-common practice of sharing plots.
Fife Council opts to use cremation unless it is believed that the deceased would have wanted a burial.
It is only in this case that the authority would use a “communal” grave.
Perth & Kinross Council meanwhile also use cremation primarily.
They bury individuals in a “common lair” at Scone Cemetery but only if requested.
Mr Duncan added: “If you go to Dundee’s Eastern Cemetery, Barnhill or Balgay, you can see these monuments that must have cost an absolute fortune for the wealthy.
“And then you have these areas where there are graves with no marker of any description.
“It is sad.
“It’s similar to the Titanic being described as a microcosm of society.”
Funerals ‘not undignified’
Dundee City Council has a contract with a local funeral director which is tendered every three years.
The current contract commenced in October 2018, with the burial cost set at £720, and cremations £1400.
It would only carry out a cremation for reasons of religion or belief. All funerals in the last five years have been burials.
Angus Council follows the same policy.
Angus Council insist the policy is respectful and loved ones are looked after following death.
A spokesperson said: “Although it may be shared with strangers, a public burial is not undignified.
“We take the same care with public health funerals as we do with all funerals.
“The main difference is that a public grave cannot be marked with a headstone or marker.
“Those buried in this type of lair do not retain “exclusive right of burial”, a phrase that defines burial rights to a cemetery plot.
“A person may be buried in a common grave which already contains someone else’s coffin, or the lair may be reopened for another burial at a later date.
“Nor will we allow friends or family to mark a common grave or leave floral tributes unless they purchase exclusive right of burial to the lair.
“Whilst we fully sympathise with those unfortunate enough to be laid to rest in a public grave we have limited capacity across Angus burial grounds and seek to utilise all available cemetery space.”
A Dundee City Council spokesperson said: “The council has statutory responsibilities for National Assistance Funerals.
“We ensure these funerals are carried out in a respectful and dignified manner.”