Funeral provider Dignity has warned over a hit from a steeper-than-expected fall in the number of deaths so far in 2019.

The group - the UK's only listed funerals chain - said underlying operating profits tumbled 42 per cent to £21.7 million in the 13 weeks to March 29 after the number of deaths dropped around 12% to 159,000.

It said it is unlikely this rate of decrease will continue throughout 2019 and the number of deaths is likely to finish around 3% lower overall.

However, it cautioned that even a 3% drop would leave operating profits around £3 million to £4 million lower than expected and this result would also require a marked step up in the number of deaths over the second half of the year.

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Mike McCollum, chief executive of Dignity, said: "Whilst the number of deaths in 2019 may mean that our short-term financial performance is lower than we originally anticipated, I am confident that the changes we are making will allow us to generate sustainable growth in the medium to long-term."

Also in today's Herald, Mark Williamson's Monday interview reveals the Scots housing market outlook is bright amid Brexit clouds, according to one sector leader.

Demand for new homes will remain strong in Scotland for years in spite of the uncertainty around Brexit the head of an influential sector player has predicted.

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