THEY do not offer limos, horse-drawn hearses or funeral services, but the UK’s first not-for-profit funeral director promises dignity with every cremation.

Set up by anti-poverty charity Community Renewal Trust, Caledonia Cremation offers “direct cremation” to every area in mainland Scotland.

Under this format, families do not come together at the crematorium to pay their last respects, but organise separate gatherings to remember their loved ones.

The deceased is collected from their home or hospital and taken to the Caledonia Cremation facility in Glasgow for preparation. A cremation is then held before the ashes are scattered, collected or returned to families.

Paul McColgan, chief executive of Community Renewal Trust and founder of Caledonia Cremation, says the practise is the fastest growing funeral method in England and Wales, and he predicts similar interest in Scotland.

He told The National: “This is still relatively new in Scotland. We are going to have to try and build up awareness that this is a choice for people.”

Backed by a £100,000 loan from Social Investment Scotland and the ASDA Community Capital Fund, the community interest company is offering its “simple” option for a total of £995 – less than one third of the £3146 cited as the cost of the average cremation in Scotland in a report by insurer Sun Life last year.

McColgan says the idea has been six years in the making and responds to high levels of funeral poverty. The Scottish Government is to introduce a new Funeral Expense Assistance from summer next year.

McColgan says one in seven people are “pushed into debt” over funeral expenses and argues his team’s offer is a necessary alternative to standard options. He said: “I wouldn’t call it no-frills, because that doesn’t get across the quality of what we offer.

“Borrowing thousands of pounds to cover a funeral is now common practice in Scotland. Our vision is for a Scotland where everyone can afford a dignified funeral, personal to their needs.

“We don’t have a fleet of hearses and limousines. These days there is no need for top hats or canes. We are simply committed to offering one cost, and never to upsell. We offer the same dignified service to every single person.”

The organisation also allows donors to “pay forward” a funeral for someone unable to meet the costs.

McColgan says he has first-hand experience of the “strain” of funeral expenses on a family, stating: “My brother-in-law died suddenly in his twenties.

“Like many young families, there was no provision for such an unexpected event, but fortunately other family members were able to support the funeral costs. It highlighted to me the terrible financial burden arranging a funeral can place on many families, particularly younger families, and that something needed to be done.”

Alastair Davis, chief executive officer of Social Investment Scotland, said the initiative will help “create a real, measurable and sustainable impact”. He said: “Social enterprises in Scotland have a fantastic track record of creating innovative solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges, and the issue of funeral poverty is one of the most pressing.

“Social Investment Scotland has been delighted to be able to provide financial support to this new social enterprise to support their launch.”