GRIEVING families are increasingly asking for crosses and other Christian symbols to be removed from chapels ahead of funeral services, in the latest evidence Scotland is turning its back on religion.

Official inspectors have reported "a number of occasions" in which crosses have been covered up or taken away entirely at the request of mourners.

It comes as humanists warned non-religious people are potentially being discriminated against due to the lack of "inclusive spaces" for them to bury loved ones or scatter ashes.

Gordon MacRae, chief executive of the Humanist Society Scotland, said it was "not unusual" for families to have to request religious symbols be removed.

He said: “It’s one of the things that symbolises the changes that are happening in Scotland. Scotland is now a majority non-religious country.

“More people choose to celebrate their wedding day with a humanist celebrant, rather than a Church of Scotland celebrant.

“Modern Scotland is both diverse and increasingly non-religious, but some parts of the public sector are yet to catch up.

"We see that with things like crematoria – but also chapels in prisons and school services.

“The crematoria issue is particularly painful for a lot of people. If you had a negative experience of religion it’s a very difficult time for somebody to have to mark the passing of a loved one in a way that feels dishonest or brings back bad memories.

“It’s a difficult thing for people to deal with. What we want to get away from is a default setting that just assumes everyone is Christian."

Mr MacRae said one grieving mother had recently raised a complaint over Mortonhall crematorium in Edinburgh, where a large cross overlooks the garden of remembrance.

He insisted Mortonhall was arguably “failing it its public sector equality duties” because it does not provide adequate space for those who are not Christian.

In a report published last week, Scotland’s Inspector of Crematoria, Robert Swanson, said there had been concerns raised "over the presence of Christian religious symbols, particularly the ‘cross’ in chapels and gardens of remembrance".

He wrote: "There have been a number of occasions where at the request of applicants steps have been taken (where practical) to remove or conceal the cross (in chapel) for the duration of the service.

"The Inspector is involved in ongoing discussion with a number of stakeholders, and has met with the Humanist Society Scotland, to address some of these concerns.

"It is their view that current practices leave their 15,000 members and those of other non-Christian faiths and beliefs open to discrimination as defined under the Equality Act 2010."

As well as crosses, another source of complaint has been the automatic laying out of Bibles and prayer books on seats before funeral services.

It comes amid mounting evidence Scots are turning away from organised religion as church congregations continue to drop.

Last year, research released by the Humanist Society Scotland showed the number of Scots who say they are not religious had risen to almost three quarters.

Meanwhile, the Social Attitudes Survey in 2016 found 58 per cent of Scots said they did not belong to a religion, while 41% said they did.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “Everyone must agree that crematoria should be welcoming to people of all faiths and none.

"Families should be encouraged to express their wishes and their preferences should be accommodated whenever possible.

"At the same time, during times of grief and loss many people want and need the comforting presence of symbols of their faith and words that express their beliefs and the importance of these should not be underestimated.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Each crematorium in Scotland is different - some have religious symbols displayed in their chapels and service rooms, some do not.

"In every case the Inspector of Crematoria asks that the wishes of the deceased, their family and next of kin are carefully and sensitively considered.

“This also extends to religious symbols, and where necessary crematoria are asked they are treated with respect.”