Families have been left “absolutely devastated” by a local authority’s decision to switch off speakers outside a crematorium, a funeral director has said.
Glasgow City Council has made the decision to discourage people from congregating outside Daldowie Crematorium in the east end of the city.
It comes after what the council said was a “few instances recently where the Covid-19 guidance has not been adequately followed”.
Currently, funeral services are only limited to 20 people inside – not including the funeral director, venue staff or celebrant.
The guidance seeks to “discourage people who are not counted in the cap of 20 people from going to the funeral service and gathering outside the crematorium”.
Stephen Walker, one of the owners of the independent Janice Stevens funeral director in Tollcross, Glasgow, arranged funerals at Daldowie nearby before the changes were made.
He is now having to inform the families of the new guidance.
Mr Walker told the PA news agency: “We got an email on the Friday (October 2) saying that as of Monday October 5, Glasgow City Council were no longer operating the speakers to stop people from congregating outside and they were closing the doors so people didn’t gather in the foyer.
“Families are devastated, absolutely devastated … I don’t think it’s fair on families.
“We did a funeral a couple of days after where people were gathering outside the crematorium wanting to pay their respects – what they’re doing now is watching a live stream on a phone or a tablet and gathering in crowds.
“If the speaker system was on they wouldn’t need to gather in crowds round a phone – it’s safer if the speakers are on rather than them not being on.”
He added: “You can clearly see it’s not safe for people what they’re doing even though some of them have got masks on and some haven’t.
“There was nothing done at Government level to change it, to my knowledge it was changed by the management at the crematorium who took the decision.”
A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council confirmed to PA that the entrance doors of Daldowie – and Linn Crematorium, which it also operates – will be “closed for the duration of each service and external speakers will not be in use”.
She added funeral directors are responsible for keeping families informed of any changes.
The measures brought in amid the coronavirus pandemic are also affecting crematoriums in Glasgow run by private companies, which also face having to switch off outside speakers.
A spokesman for the Crematorium and Memorial Group, which operates Craigton Crematorium in the city, told PA: “We are balancing the need to help families remember their loved ones whilst keeping them safe.
“At Craigton Crematorium, we can currently accommodate 18 people within the chapel and have external speakers for the other two mourners to listen to the service.
“Now that the weather is turning colder we may try to reconfigure the interior of the chapel to accommodate all 20 mourners – to comply with the Government’s guidelines we may then have to consider turning off the speakers.
“Our colleagues are key workers and it’s important to keep them safe so the crematoria remains operational to continue serving grieving families.”
A member of staff at the Glasgow Crematorium, also known as Maryhill and operated by the Scottish Cremation Society rather than the local authority, said speakers are being used there on a case by case basis.
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