RECORD numbers of people 'too poor to die' will end up in paupers' graves at taxpayer expense this year, it has been predicted.

New figures show Scottish councils will pay out the highest ever amount to cover state-funded no-frills services in 2015.

More than £1.7million has already been spent by local authorities over the past five years for the burials and cremations.

But now it is estimated the bill will surpass £500,000 this coming year alone, tragically because of rising numbers of people dying penniless or without family.

It will mean the cost to the public purse has almost trebled since 2010, and has prompted demands for an overhaul of Scotland's funeral service provision.

Tim Morris, chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, described the increase as frightening.

He added: "At the moment for many people whose loved ones die they are faced with a stark choice: face the stigma of debt with the unaffordable high costs of funerals, or the stigma of having to have to resort to a pauper funeral.

"Then there are those people who pass away without the means to pay for a funeral.

"But it does not have to be like this. If all funeral directors were forced by law to offer a low-cost price option, with the most basic of provisions, then we could see an end for the need for public health funerals."

The new figures show at least £1,708,315 has been paid out to cover public health funerals over the past five years. But the sum could be higher as two councils failed to provide any data.

In 2010, councils foot the bill for 390 services at a cost of £166,162, a figure that almost doubled to £309,063 the following year. A total of 459 people were buried or cremated in 2012 with the taxpayer covering the £361,062 cost.

By last year the figures had risen again, with 459 requiring state-funded services, at a cost of £447,097, with officials expecting record numbers over the next 12 months.

Edinburgh has paid for the most funerals with 689 since 2010 at a cost of £554,000, with 134 of them last year alone and the majority of them cremations. The second-highest spend in 2014 was by Fife Council, which was forced to cover the £68,824 cost for 56 services.

Glasgow City Council has spent £149,160 on 214 paupers' funerals since 2012, with no figures available for 2010 or 2011.

In Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire 32 people were given no-frills services last year, with Dundee holding 16 funerals and Perth and Kinross organising 28.

The majority of those who died across Scotland were elderly people, including a 95-year-old woman in North Ayrshire, but one was as young as 33.

Stirling Council cremated a 35-year-old man in June 2013 at cost of £1,397 because "relatives had no money", while Highland paid for 60-year-old man from Thurso to be buried at a cost of £1,313 because he was divorced and estranged from his son and daughter.

According to official data, the average cost of a burial and service in Scotland is £5,044, and a cremation £4,425, but basic state-funded funerals cost upwards of £950.

Mr Morris said: "We have seen increasing numbers of people simply unable to afford funerals, and this is frightening.

"But it shows no signs of slowing down and while this year will see the biggest numbers we predict that they will go up again to record levels in 2016."

The Scottish Government is in the midst of a consultation on new guidelines governing public health services, including plans for regulating the funeral industry.