The man who tirelessly campaigns for improvements to Hawkhead Cemetery has given evidence to a committee of the Scottish Parliament.

Des Barr formed the Friends of Hawkhead Cemetery group last year and he was invited to attend and speak at the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee, at Holyrood.

The committee was hearing evidence about how local authorities throughout Scotland were interpreting Government guidance on health and safety in graveyards.

And how council staff were ordered by their bosses to topple headstones at council-run cemeteries without directly informing families of those buried in the lairs that this was happening.

Des Barr and the Friends of Hawkhead Cemetery group had backed a petition sent to the Scottish Parliament by Dumfries and Galloway Councillor Andrew Stuart Wood.

His petition called on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to monitor and regulate actions taken by local authorities when undertaking their statutory duty of ensuring health and safety in cemeteries.

The Friends of Hawkhead Cemetery group have been campaigning for Renfrewshire Council to stop the toppling of headstones in the graveyard until the Government issues standardised regulations over the issue.

Des Barr told the committee: “Our biggest concern is about the anxiety, the anguish and the distress. There’s so many adjectives that people have used to describe that to me.

“It is most distressing for people to turn up to visit a grave and see the headstone lying flat. And there is quite a number of people who just can’t believe this is happened to their member of family and they’ve not had any communication from the council directly.”

Des Barr says families of those buried in Hawkhead Cemetery should be contacted and told their headstone was subject of a safety review and be given the chance to organises for any repairs needed to the headstone.

He also called for the suspension of the scheme “until such times as this Committee or the Parliament has had a chance to review the guidance because I don’t think anybody ever really realised what was going to happen and the distress it would cause.”

After the committee meeting, Des Barr said: “I was very impressed by Councillor Andrew Stuart Wood and how he has campaigned on this issue and also our West of Scotland Regional MSP Paul O’Kane who also attended the committee and spoke in support of our campaign.

“The members of the committee seemed very receptive to our arguments and our view that things need to be done differently. Once the committee members finish taking evidence on the issue, I hope they will support what we are trying to achieve for people who have family and friends buried in council-run cemeteries.”

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