Super-size me ... even after my death

THE scale of the obesity epidemic was underlined yesterday with the revelation that Scotland's newest crematorium has invested in a super-sized cremator.

At 41in wide, it can accommodate coffins nearly twice as wide as standard to cope with excessively large bodies - as well as the growing trend for elaborate, outsized coffins.

The extra-large facility is part of the 3 million Sydes Brae Crematorium in High Blantyre, Lanarkshire, which had faced local opposition.

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It has already dealt with the funerals of obese people from all over Scotland whose size meant their local crematorium could not cope.

The crematorium has also become an unlikely point of interest for local community groups, including the Scottish Woman's Rural Institute.

One woman who was given a guided tour of the crematorium told The Scotsman: "They made quite a thing out of their extra large cremator and said they had conducted cremations for heavy people from all over the country."

A spokeswoman for South Lanarkshire Council yesterday confirmed that the crematorium included a larger than standard cremator to give people "the best possible choice".

She said: "The average size of coffins is approximately 24in. We provide the biggest cremators in Scotland at our brand-new facility in Blantyre, which is capable of taking up to a 41in-wide coffin.

"We took the view when building our new facility that we should be able to provide the best possible choice for people. This included choice for both larger and more elaborate coffins.

"We provide a cremations service to all areas as well as our own, no matter the size of the coffin."

The council said that the crematorium has held 475 cremations, with many coming from outwith the South Lanarkshire Council area.

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Neville Rigby, of the International Obesity Task Force, said: "This is another example of the hidden costs we have to face in society where more and more people are becoming obese.

"We have already seen in the United State how they have had to increase the size of turnstiles at sports stadia, not to mention increasing the size of seats and the appropriate weight limits on aeroplanes.

"It is tragically evident from these examples and the decision by the crematorium in South Lanarkshire that obesity is a real issue and it affects people right up to the very end of their lives. This is a health problem we can no longer afford to ignore."

Dominic McGuire, a spokesman for the National Association of Funeral Directors, said: "The majority of crematoriums were built with a standard size 20in cremator so these larger facilities do offer people choice.

"However, I must stress that the funeral directors are not experiencing significant problems with obese bodies."

Sydes Brae was one of the first crematoria in the UK to comply with new European limits on mercury emissions, although the plans for it faced stiff local opposition when first mooted with more than 1,500 letters of complaint sent to the council.