A SENIOR Kirk official has said it is an "affront" to Scottish society that mourning families have been driven into debt by the cost of arranging the funeral for a loved one.

Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland spoke out after a report revealed that some people are resorting to desperate measures such as crowdfunding to help cover the cost of burials or cremations.

Around 55,000 funerals take place in Scotland every year, with an average cost of £3,550, and a study by Citizens' Advice Scotland and John Birrell, chair of the Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty, found that about one in ten families struggle to pay the cost.

It called on councils to accept that rising burial and cremation costs are part of the problem and recommended the Government consider changing the law so that local authorities would have to justify any above inflation increases.

Rev Foster-Fulton said that the study should serve as a "wake-up" call to Scottish Government Ministers and local councils and called the cost of funerals an "attack" on people when they were at their most vulnerable.

She said: “Every week the Church of Scotland supports hundreds of families as they mourn the death of someone they love. In recent times, we have become more and more aware that for many, alongside the grief, is the fear of the cost of the funeral.

"We increasingly hear of people who can’t afford to live but we also know of many families where people can’t afford to die. That should be an affront to all of us.

"The Church welcomes this report and hopes that its contents and recommendations might act as a wakeup call and result in real change."

She added: "The obscenity of people being forced into crippling debt as they pay for the funeral of a loved one must be consigned to the history books.

"This will require a collective and concerted effort from the Scottish Government, Local Authorities, Funeral Directors and all those involved in the provision of funerals and bereavement services."

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said ministers will host the first national conference on ways to reduce the cost of burialsin the wake of the report.

Another recommendation is for a Scottish Funeral Bond to be established, which would standardise costs for a simple service,

The Scottish Government has already said it will consider this as part of its response to the report.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: "We know that we can't solve funeral poverty alone, which is why we will bring together funeral directors, charities, councils and health and social care services for the first ever national conference on funeral poverty."

Citizens Advice Scotland chief operating officer Anne Lavery said advice bureaus had reported "significant increases in the numbers of people coming to them for advice on funeral costs".