Isanders pay £2.4m more for deliveries

Customers in the Western Isles are paying over £2.4 million a year extra for delivery charges compared with their counterparts in the central belt of Scotland.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 9:48 am
The Royal Mail service ensures people in the Highlands and Islands do not pay excessive fees for deliveries, but as this report highlights that practice is far from universal

That is the key finding from research by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre which has led to renewed calls for legislation to clamp down on excess charging for deliveries to the Highlands and Islands.

It is the first time research has focused purely on differentials within Scotland rather than the UK as a whole – and the results highlight that this is almost entirely a Highland and Islands issue with almost 90 per cent of additional costs for the whole of Scotland concentrated in the region.

SPICe states: “All previous estimates were based on the additional cost to Scotland of parcel delivery surcharges relative to the rest of the UK … this 2021 costing is instead estimating the additional cost to Scottish adults in areas commonly impacted by parcel delivery surcharges relative to the rest of Scotland”.

Broken down by Parliamentary constituencies, the total in surcharges for the Highlands and Islands is £44 million with the figure for Na h’Eileanan an Iar estimated at £2.406 million. This has escalated in line with increased reliance on on-line shopping during the pandemic.

There is no breakdown provided of where the excess charges come from – whether they result in excess profit to the retailer or are in excess of actual delivery costs incurred by hauliers. In a recent House of Commons debate, a Government minister said that a review of the issue is being carried out.

While the Royal Mail is legally obliged to deliver parcels throughout the UK at a flat rate, many retailers choose to use private distribution networks which are not covered by legislation and consumers are warned to check delivery costs before ordering on-line.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: “The fact some national couriers and retailers still administer surcharges for deliveries to certain areas of Scotland, including the Western Isles, absolutely cannot be justified. Why should someone in the islands have to pay so much more for the same product than someone in the Central Belt, or in the south of England?’