Scotland is being hardest hit by the “postmaster crisis” across the UK, new figures reveal.
The Scottish post office network has the highest number of both temporarily closed branches and temporary operators in the UK.
Figures from Post Office Ltd show that of the 1,016 temporarily closed branches, 134 are in Scotland, representing 13 per cent of all temporarily closed branches.
The second most affected was the south-east of England with 121.
Likewise, 52 of the 315 branches run by a temporary operator are in Scotland. Temporary postmasters step in when a postmaster leaves and a permanent postmaster cannot be found.
Marion Fellows, SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw, said poor contracts and low remuneration were to blame for the crisis.
“The Tories’ continued refusal to support postmasters and the Post Office network is particularly impacting Scottish communities,” she said.
“The Tories are being driven by a policy of non-intervention. But as the special shareholder, the UK government has to take action to prevent the managed decline of yet another valued public asset.
“There has been a mass exodus of postmasters, leaving many communities branch-less.
“Rather than standing back and allowing the Post Office to crumble, the UK government needs to sort postmaster contracts and ensure they are properly remunerated.”
A spokesman for the National Federation of Sub Postmasters (NFSP) said: “We have raised the issue of sub-post office closures with the UK government and the government-owned Post Office Ltd.
“Our records show around two-thirds of closures are due to the resignation of the sub-postmaster – and a survey of our members conducted earlier this year gives an insight into why sub-postmasters are resigning. Income is dropping over time, the majority earn less than the national minimum wage for running their post office – and therefore earn less per hour than their staff – and as many as a third took no time off last year.
“We agree with Marion Fellows that Scotland has been hit hard by sub-post office closures. This is a particular problem for rural areas in Scotland, as well as across the UK, where people rely on their local post office for vital postal and banking services.
“The UK government currently provides a subsidy which helps support post offices.
“The subsidy is due to end in 2021 and the NFSP urges government to continue to fund the network beyond 2021.”
A spokeswoman for the Post Office said: “We know how important post offices services are to communities. That’s why we’re committed to keeping branches open and are pleased to say the Post Office network overall is at its most stable for decades.
“It is true that finding a replacement when one does close can be difficult, especially in rural areas like parts of Scotland.”
The spokeswoman added: “That’s why we sometimes put a temporary postmaster in place, so the community can once again get access.”