A HEALTH and safety tax will be imposed on the relatives of the dead, under plans by a Scots council.
Bereaved families are set to face a £100 charge for the maintenance of headstones to ensure the health and safety of visitors.
East Lothian Council is considering the introduction of the “management fee” due to worries about the deteriorating state of its graveyards.
Vandalism as well as the ravages of time have left 8,000 headstones in a potentially dangerous condition.
Families wanting to buried their loved ones in council cemeteries already pay a one-off £133 “Foundation Fee”.
The charge will rocket to £233 if the “safety” tax is imposed.
The council is required to inspect headstones on a minimum three-year cycle and carry out repairs to any stone found to present a danger of collapse.
However, dilapidated headstones and acts of vandalism are adding to council costs.
The additional tax was proposed in papers presented to the council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, but councillors were told that a further report on the issue would be prepared for a future meeting.
Local SNP councillor Peter MacKenzie said: “We need to regard these headstones as very precious ‘documents in stone’ and many will be gone forever if we do not care for them.
“In Prestongrange churchyard the condition of the gravestones is not good and many have been vandalised and need to be re-stabilised.”
Last year vandals destroyed ten gravestones at the 16th century church, smashing them beyond repair.
Some stones, weighing as much as two tonnes, were pushed over, leaving the church with a huge repair bill of £3,500.
Councillors have endorsed a Burial Ground Strategy for East Lothian, because the county is struggling to find suitable burial space.
There is a need for 13,500 lairs to meet a 50-year demand, but officials estimate that an extra 5,000 will be required – at a cost of almost £5million.
Local Labour councillor Norman Hampshire said: “We are now under real pressure because a number of our cemeteries have very little capacity and people want to be buried in their own community, if that is their desire.”