The Royal Mail should be renationalised in an independent Scotland but it is impossible to know how much this will cost, according to the SNP’s postal affairs spokesman.
Mike Weir has backed First Minister Alex Salmond’s demand for a moratorium on the UK Government’s sell-off of the Royal Mail until after the independence referendum to protect assets which could transfer to Scottish public ownership.
Mr Weir said a Scottish Royal Mail “would cost no more than it does at present”, but said “nobody can know” how much it would cost to buy back the assets if UK privatisation proceeds as planned.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Weir said: “We are asking the UK Government to delay the sell-off of a massive public asset that is vital to the economy, particularly in rural Scotland.
“We are a year away from making an important decision on our future, and we believe Royal Mail is essential to the wellbeing of Scotland.
“As the First Minister said yesterday, the Royal Mail should be in public hands and following independence we will ensure that the people of Scotland have the opportunity to keep it that way.”
He said Scotland should renationalise the Royal Mail if it gains independence, but added: “Nobody can know how much it’s going to cost because we don’t know how much is going to be sold off, we don’t know the price, we don’t know the value of that part of the business in Scotland at the time of privatisation, and the value of shares can go down as well as up.”
When asked how much it would cost to preserve Royal Mail’s universal service in Scotland, he said: “Scottish taxpayers are already paying to preserve the universal service. It’s part of Royal Mail at the moment, it would cost no more than it does at present.
“We don’t know what the price of (UK) stamps are going to be in two years because Ofcom have taken off the price caps. We will have an affordable, universal service.”
Shadow postal affairs minister Ian Murray told the same programme: “I’m delighted that the First Minister has finally come on board, but he is seeing it through the prism of his obsession with the constitution rather than actually seeing this as an issue where we should be jointly fighting privatisation to have it stopped and therefore the moratorium no longer required.”
Mr Salmond told the BBC Sunday Politics programme yesterday: “We are demanding that the Prime Minister, rather than attempting to pre-judge and pre-empt a decision by the Scottish people in a year’s time, has a moratorium on the sell-off to allow the people of Scotland to decide what we want to do with that great national asset.”