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Community / Study to explore potential for alternative funeral and burial services

Photo: SIC

A LOCAL community development company has secured funding to research options for new funeral and burial services in Shetland.

Community Development Company of Nesting (CDCN) has received the funding through Scottish Government’s CLLD scheme.

The feasibility study will initially assess the provision of three core services: the building of a facility for water cremation (a process of alkaline hydrolysis also known under the trademark ‘Resomation’), green burial sites, and themed funeral and memorial ceremonies.

This includes exploring the idea of ceremonies marking Shetland’s Norse heritage – “for example, the burning of a scaled-down Viking longboat containing an urn”.

A survey on the topic also suggests that with the development of spaceports, including in Unst, “the chance to scatter ashes near the edge of space could also be explored”.

“We anticipate that premium services like these would appeal to enthusiasts from around the world, and could subsidise more affordable offerings,” the survey added.

CDCN said it is also open to considering other service options which may be identified through the study.

Working with Community Enterprise Scotland, CDCN aims to understand current gaps in the provision of such services locally and also whether the development group could potentially help ease capacity issues for some existing services.

Income generated through the provision of these services would then be used to help financially safeguard the future of community projects in Nesting, Girlsta and Wadbister – the areas which CDCN represents.

Shetland does not have a crematorium, and some of its traditional burial grounds are reaching capacity.

Community councils were consulted last year on how to make Shetland’s network of burial grounds more sustainable in the future.

CDCN director Ellis Keith said an important part of the study is to avoid looking at options which would mean CDCN competing with existing local businesses or services in the funeral industry.

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“When CDCN began to consider exploring options for starting up one or more social enterprises to provide funeral and burial services, it was stated early on that it is important to avoid duplicating existing local services – unless of course the entities providing those services would welcome it, such as if they felt that they are operating beyond their own capacities,” he said.

CDCN’s study comes at a time when perceptions and choices relating to funerals appear to be changing in the UK.

CNCN said a recent YouGov survey found that whilst 89 per cent of UK adults had not heard of Resomation™, once explained, just under a third said they would choose this option for their own funeral if it was available.

The Association of Natural Burial Grounds reports that there are now over 270 green/natural burial sites in the UK.

Keith added: “It does seem like perceptions around funerals and burials are changing – possibly due to awareness of the environmental impacts of processes such as cremation.

“Therefore, it feels like this is the right time for CDCN to explore whether people in Shetland are also more open to the kinds of services we are looking to provide.”

Community Enterprise will be conducting research with Shetland communities, as well as with people overseas who might be interested in themed ceremonies.

Anyone interested in getting involved in this research can complete a short survey.

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