PAUPERS’ funerals in the Highlands have soared more then 500 per cent in the last five years.
Devastating increases in poverty have been blamed for the rising number of families who cannot afford to bury their loved ones, thought to be a result of austerity and the roll out of universal credit, as well as the rising costs of funerals.
Highland Council has already carried out 25 paupers’ funerals this year, compared to just four in 2012 – an increase of 525 per cent.
A national assistance or public health funeral, more commonly known as a pauper’s funeral, is a basic burial paid for by a council when the deceased or their family do not have the money themselves.
There has been a spike in the last two years, from seven in 2015 to 23 in 2016.
The price of a burial in the Highlands rose by 52 per cent to £970 last year, rising further to £1380 when the cost of buying a lair is added.
Cremation charges in Inverness, the only crematorium in the Highlands, also jumped 59 per cent to £849, making them the most expensive in Scotland.
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Drew Hendry blamed the rise on Westminster cuts and people struggling to survive on the controversial universal credit benefit system.
"No one should find themselves in the impossible position of not being able to afford to bury a loved one," he said.
"That the UK Government continue to refuse to acknowledge what people are forced to deal with every day as a result of their harmful policy decisions, is a complete and utter disgrace."
The figures came to light when it was revealed that Highland Council is owed £293,000 from funeral directors, who are thought to be bearing the burden of debt from grieving customers.
There will soon be more help available to combat funeral poverty as in August the Scottish Government announced a 10-point plan to improve the support already available.