The Post Office has been heavily criticised this week after it was revealed it will not offer mortgages for properties in the islands – except Skye as it is an island joined to the mainland by road.
Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has demanded an explanation after she discovered the Post Office’s policy of refusing mortgages to island customers.
It is understood that the Post Office’s mortgages are provided through the Bank of Ireland who have this policy regarding island properties.
A spokesperson for the Post Office said they may look at their policies : “Post Office is committed to serving customers across the whole of the UK and we strive to provide the best possible service to people in particularly remote areas such as the Scottish Islands.
“We regularly review our policies and are currently considering how greater mortgage availability could be delivered in the Scottish Islands. This would be subject to resolving the wider issues we have encountered, particularly with regard to the supply of valuations.”
The issue was raised with Ms Urquhart by a Shetland woman who received a letter promoting Post Office mortgages, even though as an Islander she would be deemed ineligible to apply for one. Ms Urquhart said: “The local Post Office plays an absolutely central role in many rural communities, including in the islands. I would hope that relationship could extend to all of its services. “When we have been so failed by the banks, a diversity of financial services providers is to be welcomed. Islanders should be able to benefit from that greater choice the Post Office provides. “There’s no obvious justification for discriminating against the islands in this way. My hope is that this is an oversight by a distant official, and that the Post Office will quickly agree to scrap its ‘no island mortgages’ rule. “But I’m already proud to back Citizens Advice in their fight for fair delivery charges to the north and the islands - if there has to be a fight for fair mortgages too, I’m ready.”
Ms Urquhart has now written to the UK minister responsible for the Post Office, Liberal Democrat Jenny Willott, and the Managing Director of the publicly-owned company, Paula Vennels. Iain Macaulay from Stornoway’s Independent Mortgage Shop said although the main high street lenders would all provide mortgages to island customers, there were many companies who would not.
In response to an enquiry regarding island mortgages, a spokesperson for Leeds Building Society said: “In reply to your recent enquiry regarding lending in the Scottish Islands. We will lend if there is a road link to the mainland.”