SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod today (Thursday) commented on Business Secretary Vince Cable’s announcement that the Westminster government will sell Royal Mail through a flotation on the London Stock Exchange and warned that the plans pose a threat to Royal Mail services for rural areas.
Dr McLeod said: “The UK government’s decision to privatise the Royal Mail poses real danger to the postal service, and in particular, the universal service obligation (USO) which is of huge importance to rural Scotland. A privatised postal service in a competitive market will undoubtedly put pressure on government to reduce the terms of the USO, as its competitors “cherry pick” the profitable urban routes leading to a reduced service in rural and less affluent areas.
“Seventy seven per cent of Scots are totally opposed to the privatisation of Royal Mail- more than any other part of the UK. Vince Cable has spouted nonsense about independence being a threat to post offices, yet the services Scotland receives from the Royal Mail could be placed in jeopardy by due to a UK government Scotland did not elect.
“It is a nonsense that a public flotation on the stock exchange will make any difference to the eventual outcome. In previous Tory privatisations they trumpeted the idea of mass shareholding but the truth is that many shares were soon sold. The numbers of people holding shares peaked in 1997 and has steadily declined since.
“Most of the privatised companies, such as the energy companies, were soon taken over and most have now ended up as divisions of overseas companies. It is highly likely that Royal Mail will soon end up losing its independence and becoming part of one of the larger European mail companies, or worse still, fall into the hands of those seeking to asset strip the organisation.
“The only protection to the consumer is Ofcom, which has already lifted the price cap on most products, allowed competitors to establish delivery services on profitable routes and confirmed that they have no power to stop the introduction of different prices for different areas of the country.
“Dumfries & Galloway has already seen its postal services eroded, with Post Office closures and reductions in services under the last Labour Government and the wholesale privatisation of the Royal Mail under this Tory-Liberal coalition. Only with independence can Scotland be assured of a mail service that meets the needs of Scotland and our communities rather than the money men of London.”
Last month in response to suggestions that the No campaign would seek to use the future of post offices in their campaign, Willie Marshall, Secretary of Communications Union (CWU) Scotland, Number 2 Branch, said: “Privatising Royal Mail will be the biggest threat to customers and employees all over Scotland but particularly in remote and rural areas if the universal service obligation is ditched. People know perfectly well that an independent Scottish government would protect those services in a way that Westminster simply won’t.”