SELF-regulation of the funeral industry is failing to work, with health and safety practices being flouted and bodies being prepared for burial in garages, kitchens and sheds, it has been claimed.

A submission by a professional embalmer to a recent Scottish Government consultation on burial and cremation practices has raised major concerns over how some funeral companies are operating.

Jason King, who states he has been a professional embalmer for 24 years, says he believes health and safety regulations are often flouted through

"ignorance or a notion of being untouchable".

He pointed out that anyone can open a funeral company or call themselves an embalmer - someone who carries out preservation of the deceased so families can view the body - without the need to undertake any training.

In the statement he said: "Currently dead bodies are being embalmed anywhere. The following are all true: corridors, garages, sheds, in the person's house, the funeral director's kitchen, on stretchers, in coffins, an old door on two trestles, in the viewing room (chapel of rest).

"Although these all break current health and safety laws, it is happening on a daily basis across the country.

"Many companies do have suitable embalming or preparation rooms, some acceptable, a few above and beyond, but many have nothing at all."

The submission from King also claimed that self-regulation of the industry through membership of funeral trade organisations is not working.

He said: "Laws are very often ignored through ignorance or a notion of being untouchable and the fact no-one really wants to know what goes on, so a blind eye is turned by trade bodies and governing officials."

He added: "The funeral profession has a very shiny facade with hundreds of thousands of pounds invested in the areas which are seen by the public, but behind this in many premises the facilities are not fit for purpose or even non-existent."

King, who is a tutor with the British Institute of Embalmers (BIOE), acknowledged there are many professional embalmers, funeral staff, employers and companies in the UK who do maintain high standards. But he added there are also others who have "no ethical conduct".

"In my opinion, without any legal regulation of the working activities and practices of the funeral industry, the Government and the funeral industry is seriously failing to protect the public and the people who choose the caring of the dead as a vocational profession," he said.

The Sunday Herald was unable to contact King by phone or email. However, Karen Caney, national general secretary of the BIOE, backed his call for more regulation of the funeral industry.

Caney said the institute had a disciplinary committee to address any concerns about their members. But she added: "There are a lot of embalmers out there in the UK who haven't qualified through us, so there is no regulation of what they do.

"There is also the fact that anyone can buy a property and open up as a funeral director without formal training. Yet at the end of the day, you are doing something which is a big issue for the families.

"It is very easy to have a very nice office upfront, but people don't always see what is behind that."

However, the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) - which represents 80 per cent of funeral directors in the UK - refuted any suggestion it was turning a "blind eye" to poor practice or failing to protect the public.

It said any member of the NAFD was subjected to "regular and rigorous processes" to maintain the highest standards, including bi-annual inspections of mortuary and embalming facilities.

Chief executive Alan Slater said: "All our members abide by our codes of practice and professional standards, and respond to the instruction of families as a privilege that they have been entrusted with their loved ones.

"They carry out their duties in a professional and responsible manner, and on the very few occasions where there has been an issue, families have access to an independent redress scheme, which in the last 12 months has seen less than 100 referrals out of the 475,000 funerals our members carry out each year. The NAFD badge on a funeral director's window is a kite mark of quality the public can trust."

The Scottish Government consultation considered a range of issues relating to burial and cremation, such as how the cremation of babies and infants is carried out and increasing numbers of people who are struggling to pay the costs of funerals.

Minister for Public Health Maureen Watt said: "We recently consulted on a range of policy proposals to improve the legislative framework for burial and cremation.

"We are now considering a range of options, including how the funeral industry might be regulated in future."