Independence: Yes vote ‘may threaten post offices’

SCOTLAND’S post office ­network could be under threat following a vote for independence because the cost of subsidising it would be too great, a new Westminster document will claim.

The UK government paper warns the post office network could suffer post-independence. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Scotland on Sunday has learned that the next UK government paper on the impact of independence will include an analysis of postal services.

It is understood the paper will highlight the cost of subsidising post offices in Scotland, which have just had a share of a £1.34 billion UK-wide fund to promote and support them, following the privatisation of the Royal Mail.

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Across the UK only 7,500 of the 11,500 post offices make a profit and it is understood that Scotland has a higher proportion of subsidised branches 
because of the remoteness of some communities. Currently there are 1,415 branches in Scotland, with around 700 believed to be needing support.

While the paper is still in draft form, it is also expected to highlight the loss of government contracts to deliver ­services such as benefit payments should Scotland become independent.

Independence could also mean the end of the universal service, because financing six-day-a-week deliveries in the outer reaches of Scotland is subsidised by the UK at large.

And concerns will be raised that the cost of postage between Scotland and the rest of the UK would rise if Royal Mail and other providers charged international instead of domestic rates.

John Drummond, chief executive of the Scottish Grocers Federation, said: “The Scottish Government needs to provide clarity on this issue and how it would propose to support Scotland’s post office network.”

A senior source in the Department of Business Innovation and Skills said: “Because of Scotland’s geography, there is no doubt the postal network is more subsidised in Scotland than the rest of the UK.”

A spokeswoman for the Post Office said: “The post office network is at the heart of communities in even the remotest rural areas. In Scotland, at the start of 2013, there are 1,415 post offices. These are primarily run by small independent businesses.”

Fergus Ewing, the SNP enterprise minister who is responsible for postal services within the Scottish Government, said: “This is just barefaced cheek from a Westminster government in the middle of privatising our cherished postal service and closing a fifth of our Crown Post offices.

“The reality is that a Yes vote next year is the only way to protect postal services.”