Grave tax is be­ing snubbed

Stone­ma­sons slam coun­cil’s £120 charge for head­stones

The Galloway News - - NEWS -

STU­ART GILLE­SPIE Stone­ma­sons are re­fus­ing to col­lect a charge they have de­scribed as a “tax on the be­reaved”.

On Mon­day, the coun­cil in­tro­duced a £120 charge for a per­mit to in­stall head­stones in ceme­ter­ies – a move agreed in Fe­bru­ary’s bud­get.

But Kirkcud­bright stone­ma­son Dou­glas Swan says nei­ther he nor his col­leagues are pre­pared to ask cus­tomers for the fee.

He said: “I have spo­ken to the stone­ma­sons from An­nan across to two guys in Stran­raer and ev­ery­one is adamant that we are not go­ing to col­lect the money.”

The coun­cil claimed the fee is in line with the Scot­tish av­er­age but Mr Swan said other lo­cal author­i­ties in­stal foun­da­tions which is not hap­pen­ing here.

He has now e-mailed all coun­cil­lors ask­ing for their views on the is­sue.

Mr Swan – a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Memo­rial Ma­sons – said: “Elaine Murray has asked the of­fi­cials to go back and look at their fig­ures which is ex­actly what we were look­ing for. “We know what we are talk­ing about. “I was as­sess­ing three guys in Aberdeen for their li­cence, asked who put the foun­da­tion in, they said it was the coun­cil and it was pre-laid.

“I have also got a re­ceipt in from South La­nark­shire for £120 in­clud­ing vat and the foun­da­tion.”

Coun­cil leader Dr Murray said: “What we are do­ing isn’t un­usual, we were un­usual in not hav­ing a charge.

“How­ever, what we have in­tro­duced is not quite as I un­der­stood it. I thought it was for more than an ad­min­is­tra­tion charge, I thought there was a health and safety as­pect as well.”

While happy with the re­sponses he re­ceived from some mem­bers, Mr Swan was un­sat­is­fied with a re­ply he re­ceived from Dum­fries coun­cil­lor John Char­teris.

He sug­gested that “per­haps cre­ma­tion with an en­try in the memo­rial book might solve your prob­lem”, a com­ment Mr Swan de­scribed as “crass”.

He added: “Coun­cil­lors mak­ing in­sen­si­tive com­ments like that don’t help.”

Coun­cil­lor Char­teris de­fended him­self and said: “I don’t re­gard it as crass, all I was do­ing was of­fer­ing ad­vice. I wasn’t try­ing to tell peo­ple how they should dis­pose of their loved ones.

“My view is cre­ma­tion is an al­ter­na­tive, it is cheaper for the coun­cil and it is cheaper for the per­son. It may not suit ev­ery­body.

“It is also more hy­gienic, it causes less pol­lu­tion at a time when we are try­ing to cut down on all forms of land­fill.”

Grave row Stone­ma­son Dougie Swan

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