Saturday, 19 October 2013

Alex Salmond and the Royal Mail

So in his speech today Alex Salmond said that after independence he would return the Royal Mail to public ownership. Now I make no apology here for being a philately geek as this is where the issues arise from what Alex has said in such a blasé manner.

First up there is the name, he would have no powers over the Royal Mail. The only postal service in the World that does not need to use the nation's name in its title is that of the United Kingdom as in 1840 they were the first to offer a universal set price postal service. Every other nation from the USA to South Sudan has to have the name of the country in its postal service name and on its stamps.

I have no qualms about Alex salmond saying he would restore a public postal service, but I do when he says that it would be the Royal Mail.

However, on the subject of a public postal service, does that mean that the franchised counters out to grocery stores or other shops in our rural communities would also be brought back into public ownership and therefore into a custom state run enterprise. You see if Alex truly means that all units of the Scottish Mail Service are to be public we cannot have rural post services run in the local shop. Nor can we have grocers delivery groceries and mail as an all in one service. You see the post service has not been entirely publicly owned for some time. Sometimes the franchised counters do not live up to expectations or occasionally the store into which they have been franchised run into difficulty. Then the Royal Mail has had to find some alternative arrangement, and this has not always been immediate, nor it is always fit for the purpose that those locals would like to expect, initially.

Then we have the matter that Alex Salmond's post service would have to operate outside of the UK. People will know that the cost of posting to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man is the same as to the UK. But these are crown dependencies. What Alex Salmond is wanting is a fully independent Scotland within the framework of  the UK.

While in the UK to post a letter up to 100g currently costs 60p first class and 50p second class. If I wanted to post something from Londonderry to Letterkenny, it would cost 88p minimum (up to 10g) but rise to £2.38 for between 90 and 100g. This is because Ireland counts as being in the EU. I know of people close to the border who have family in Northern Ireland who will order to the Northern Irish address as it is cheaper by quite some way.

Independence and the mail will have an affect on Scottish jobs.

Amazons largest fulfillment centre is in Dunfermline. But with increased mail costs to the rest of the UK will it be economically viable to keep both the one there and the one at Gourock? Probably not. So they will probably close the Gourock centre and scale down the one at Dunfermline. The same applies to other distribution networks that have based themselves in Scotland because of the space. With increased postage as shown above being quite steep for even small items the cost of distribution by mail order would mean a scaling back of these type of industries. That would mean a lot of lost jobs in the central belt where the M8, M9 and M80 triangle have prided themselves in becoming a distribution hub.

Independence would affect these jobs, these industries. Therefore is not enough for Alex Salmond to merely say that under independence the Royal Mail will be returned to public hands. Under independence mail will cost a lot more to send outwith Scotland and that has an impact on the cost of running companies and on people's jobs.

The Royal Mail is an essential service to people all across the UK. But under independence 5.25 million of those citizens will find it has an impact on them, the work they do, keeping in touch with family and friends and maybe even their job. People in the borders will be able to get around this, they'll use the address of their family or friends in Carlisle or Berwick to order stuff from English based firms. You don't believe this. This already happens with people from the Republic ordering stuff from UK companies to their f&f in Derry/Londonderry, Newry or Enniskillen.

There are more questions that Alex and his SNP team have to answer about postal services under an independent Scotland, because this is another area where we are Better Together.

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