The Sikh and Hindu communities in Scotland have been given an official spot on the River Clyde to scatter ashes in a traditional funeral ritual.
The part of the river, in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, is more than 5,000 miles from the sacred river which runs through India, where it is a ritual of both Sikh and Hindu religions to scatter ashes in running water.
The distance is too far for some grieving families to travel, and attempts by the Sikh community in Scotland to find a suitable spot closer to home to scatter ashes in the sea, or in waters leading to the sea, had proved fruitless.
But now Inverclyde Council has become the first local authority to formally acknowledge the religious ritual, and has installed barriers as a safety measure at a specific site in Port Glasgow.
The Newark slipway was identified as the only suitable location for the scattering of ashes along the west coast.
Discussions took place between officials from Inverclyde Council, other local authorities and the Sikh and Indian communities to find a solution.
A spokesman for Inverclyde Council said: “We have been dealing with the Sikh and Indian community for some time with a view to identifying a suitable location for scattering ashes on the Clyde.
“Clearly this is a very sensitive issue and we have been doing our best to help.
“The group has approached every local authority looking for assistance and we are hopeful that the assistance we have provided will help with the solemn and dignified scattering of ashes.
“One of the rites of Sikh funerals is scattering the ashes of loved ones in flowing water such as a river or the sea.
“Members of the Sikh community in the west of Scotland have been trying to find a suitable and accessible location to allow this to take place in the River Clyde.
“The only suitable location identified is the slipway at Port Glasgow.
“As a welcoming place and one that supports people of all faiths and none in saying their final farewell to loved ones, it is right that we support members of the wider Scottish Sikh community where we can.
“The handrail is there to support this and other uses.”
Charandeep Singh, executive director, Sikhs in Scotland said: “Sikhs traditionally travel thousands of miles to the historical Gurdwara of Kiratpur Sahib in Panjab to scatter ashes in flowing water. As the Scottish Sikh community has grown, so has the need for a dedicated local site to complete the last rites. We welcome Inverclyde Council’s announcement of this facility which will support hundreds of Sikh families in Scotland when the time comes to say goodbye to loved ones.
“As the first Council to officially announce a dedicated site for the Scottish Sikh community, we look forward to collaborating with Inverclyde Council in supporting at these difficult times”
However, the installation of the railings has caused some annoyance among local boat owners, including members of Newark Boat Club, who were obstructed from launching their craft.
While the safety aspect was welcomed by sailing enthusiasts, the metal structure stretched all the way to the end of the ramp and was completely submerged at high tide.
Council staff have now trimmed back the railings.