Commenting on Business Secretary Vince Cable’s announcement that the government will sell Royal Mail through a flotation on the London Stock Exchange, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil said:
“The UK government’s decision to privatise the Royal Mail poses real danger to the postal service, and in particular, the universal service obligation which is of huge importance to Scotland.
“Like the bedroom tax, the majority of Scottish MPs will oppose, but this privatisation is a consequence of not being independent and getting governments that we don’t vote for. This will of course raise concerns for island and rural services in the long term. If anything, this alone should waken people up to the need for independence.
“Last December, Citizens Advice Scotland published a report showing that people living in some remote and rural areas of Scotland are paying extra money to have goods bought online delivered to their homes – with many courier companies refusing to deliver to certain postcodes. A privatised postal service in a competitive market will undoubtedly put pressure on government to reduce the terms of the USO, as its competitors “cherry pick” the profitable urban routes leading to a reduced service in rural and less affluent areas.
“77 per cent of Scots are totally opposed to the privatisation of Royal Mail - more than any other part of the UK. Vince Cable has spouted nonsense about independence being a threat to post offices, yet Scotland could be losing their post offices due to a UK government they did not elect. Only with independence can Scotland be assured of a mail service that meets the needs of Scotland and our communities rather than the money men of London.
“It is a nonsense that a public flotation on the stock exchange will make any difference to the eventual outcome. In previous Tory privatisations, they trumpeted the idea of mass shareholding but the truth is that many were soon sold, the numbers of people holding shares peaked in 1997 and has steadily declined since.
“Most of the privatised companies, such as the energy companies, were soon taken over and most have now ended up as divisions of overseas companies. It is highly likely that Royal Mail will soon end up losing its independence and becoming part of one of the larger European mail companies, or worse still, fall into the hands of those seeking to asset strip the organisation.
“The only protection to the consumer is Ofcom, who have already lifted the price cap on most products, allowed competitors to establish delivery services on profitable routes and confirmed that they have no power to stop the introduction of different prices for different areas of the country.”