A Scottish county is demanding its own postcode claiming they are being ripped off on delivery charges by companies believing they are from the islands.
Campaigners in Caithness and Sutherland believe they are being hit by extra charges because the region comes under a postcode in Kirkwall, Orkney.
They have criticised delivery companies for excluding the north Highlands from standard UK mainland charges and applying surcharges for an “island” address.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs Rhoda Grant and David Stewart have arranged high level discussion with Royal Mail in the Scottish Parliament next week to discuss viability, advantages and any disadvantages of a establishing a new Caithness and Sutherland postcode, ending the use of the Kirkwall based KW code currently in use.
A number of pressure groups, which have developed on social networking site Facebook, have criticised delivery companies for charging excess fees and charges to deliver to parts of the Highlands despite being on the UK mainland.
In another recent postcode problem, the Post Office in Thurso which while closed for refurbishment, redirected customers to Orkney due to postcode grouping rather than the more accessible Wick.
A number of groups such as Thurso Community Council have backed a change in postcode and Thurso Councillor, Roger Saxon, has also backed the move.
Rhoda Grant MSP and David Stewart MSP are due to meet with Royal Mail, Director of External Relations, Julie Pirone in the Scottish Parliament next week to discuss the issue.
Mrs Grant said: “I fully support the campaign to establish a separate postcode for Caithness and Sutherland, and I think it could help end the unfair delivery charges parts of the Highland mainland are subjected to with regard to high delivery charges associated with sharing an Island postcode.
“A change in postcode has been done before in Morven and there are positives and negatives attached to it, so I think it is important to meet with Royal Mail and to sit down and properly discuss the viability, advantages and any potential disadvantages this could bring.”
Mr Stewart said: “The idea of giving Caithness and Sutherland its own postcode strikes me as a positive move.
“Obviously this could be a long process and won’t solve all the issues overnight, however I think in the long term this could be a positive move for the north Highlands beyond simply delivery charges.”
Caithness and Sutherland, Area Leader, Deirdre Mackay a long time campaigner against high delivery charges in the north, added: “It is right and proper that we make sure this is a viable move and that there wont be any negative consequences for the area before pursuing it.
“Speaking to Trading Standards and businesses, it’s clear that postcodes are not the only problem in delivery charges and we also need to look beyond this towards encouraging business to adopt principles which would ensure everyone will get a fair delivery price.”
“I look forward to hearing the outcome of discussions between the MSPs and Royal Mail next week.”
Community council chairman Bob Earnshaw said the mistake highlighted the fact that many organisations consider Caithness to be an island – and residents are paying the price for it.
He said it was now time for action and wants to see the KW postcode removed from all addresses on the mainland.
He added: “This is an issue which has been bothering a lot of organisations across Caithness who have become quite concerned about it.
“The post office situation has brought this to a head, but there’s also the serious situation of receiving parcels from the south where we are forced to pay island fees.
“We are planning to put something together to get our points over to address the situation.
“We want something which will identify Caithness and north Sutherland as part of the mainland and the KW postcode scrapped for the north Highlands.”
The KW postcode covers the Orkney Islands, Caithness and the Sutherland areas of Bettyhill, Brora, Golspie, Helmsdale and Kinbrace. The rest of the Highlands is covered by the IV postcode, while the Western Isles has its own HS postcode.
Thurso Highland Councillor Roger Saxon said he would back the campaign.
“Shetland, Isle of Man, Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands do not share their postcodes with the UK mainland but Orkney shares its postcode with us,” he said.
“I would back a campaign to create our own postcode, but I would go as far as campaigning to boycott the KW postcode entirely.
“The United States can work their system with just six digits, but the UK system does not work for us here.”
Royal Mail said it was unusual for an area to try to change its postcode but stated initials did not necessarily reflect geographical or administrative boundaries.
A spokeswoman said: “Royal Mail uses the street name, post town and postcode as its main routing tool for mail deliveries in a range of postcode areas, especially in rural areas.
“For example, it is clear that Wick on the mainland has a postcode using the KW1 sector and Orkney uses the KW15, 16 and 17 sectors.
“We are not aware of any complaints regarding the KW postcode being extended to the north Highlands.
“Royal Mail does not normally change postcodes unless there is a pressing operational reason to do so though, under the code of practice for postal addressing, there is a process for customers to request a change.”