Grave tax is being snubbed
Stonemasons slam council’s £120 charge for headstones
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