Queues snaked around the block outside of Scotland’s only passport centre in Glasgow this week as people tried to fast track passports which had been applied for at the beginning of the year in time for the start of the summer holiday season.
The Home Office has warned of major delays to passport applications this summer due to people delaying passport renewals during Covid travel restrictions. In April it said it anticipated that 9.5 million British passport applications would be made this year, while in March alone, it had processed more than one million new passport applications – the highest output on record.
One man said he had travelled from Aberdeen in the hope of chasing up his son’s passport, which he applied for in April.
He said: “We actually applied in April, which is in good time for our holiday. My passport came in a 12-day period and my son’s passport still hasn’t arrived.”
Another woman said she had travelled from Fife to stand in a queue from 7:15am after weeks of facing barriers in speaking to Passport Office staff on the phone.
She said: “It’s frustrating and you feel helpless, there is no-one you can speak to. You wait hours online, and when you do eventually get through, its automated services saying your application has been processed. There’s no human interaction, all you do is wait.”
An Edinburgh family applied for a passport renewal for their 14-year-old daughter, Josie, in March and had still not received it on Friday. Josie’s mother, Xanthe O’Brien, applied for a passport renewal at the same time as her daughter and received hers in less than three weeks.
Ms O’Brien said she had resigned herself to cancelling the family holiday.
She said: "You kind of give up. I just thought ‘we’re not going to get it’. I realise it’s not a life or death situation, but it’s just annoying and disappointing.”
Ms O’Brien said she had made multiple calls to the Passport Office, where she had been put on hold for hours. The Passport Office has hired 500 additional workers, after UK Government ministers described the current performance as “unacceptable”.
She said: “I’ve been phoning them constantly, but you can never get through to anyone who can help. They put you on hold for two hours and then you find it’s the wrong person who you’re speaking to.
"I’m on an online forum for people with passport problems and it’s the same story again and again – that one person in a family’s passport for no reason just doesn’t turn up. There must be thousands of people across the country in this situation. The Passport Office website says that they process 98 per cent of applications in less than ten weeks, but I suppose even if that’s right, that 2 per cent is a lot of people.”
Last month, reports claimed that Passport Office workers had been told to encourage frustrated customers to pay £100 to fast-track their renewals.
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.