Jean has written to the UK minister responsible for the Post Office, Lib Dem Jenny Willott, and the Managing Director of the publicly-owned company, Paula Vennels, to demand an explanation for the policy of refusing mortgages for properties on all Scottish islands except Skye.
The issue was raised 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.
The Post Office’s mortgage lending criteria state: “Lending areas: England, Scotland (not Scottish Isles with the exception of Skye), Wales and Northern Ireland (unless otherwise stated).”
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.”
Jean has urged Highland and Islands businesses to speak up on discriminatory delivery charges. Jean asked firms across the North to back a survey launched today by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) to uncover the extent of the problem.
Businesses can take part online at tinyurl.com/DeliveryCosts, or pick up a paper copy of the survey from the 19 Citizens Advice Bureaux across the Highlands and Islands. CAS say they are particularly interested to hear views from small businesses based in rural Scotland.
Research by CAS in 2012 showed that 1 million Scots are hit by additional delivery charges or late deliveries, or are refused delivery altogether. Highlanders are charged an extra £15 per delivery on average, while customers in the islands face extra charges of almost £19 per order.
“As a small business owner myself, I know how costly – and how infuriating – discriminatory delivery policies can be. I’ll definitely be taking part in this survey.
“Citizens Advice are doing a great job fighting for fairer costs, and the least we can do is give them the evidence they need for the next stage of their campaign.
“Meanwhile in the Scottish Parliament I will do everything I can to support the fight for fair treatment of businesses and customers in the Highlands and Islands.”
Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Margaret Lynch said:
“High delivery charges can be absolutely devastating for small businesses – both when sending and receiving parcels.
“We estimate that there are well over 20,000 businesses that could be affected. We want to assess how bad this problem is, so we are today opening a survey that is just for businesses. It’s their chance to have their say and contribute their evidence to our campaign.
“Throughout the campaign we have said that Scots don’t want ‘special treatment’. All they want is a fair deal. We are determined to ensure they get that.”
That the Parliament congratulates Nairn Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Nairn County FC on teaming up to raise awareness of the problems associated with payday loans and what the CAB can do to help those in difficulty with high-interest credit; welcomes the news that Nairn CAB’s ability to advise and help people in difficulty due to payday loans will be advertised in Nairn County’s matchday programmes; commends Nairn County’s approach, which it considers contrasts with that of a number of other clubs in the higher reaches of the game that are sponsored by payday lenders and notes that the club aims to reach out to football fans and the wider community; further commends the work of Nairn CAB, particularly on its use of innovative ideas to raise awareness of what it sees as its invaluable work in helping Scots to regain control of their finances, among other issues; understands that CABs across Scotland are currently dealing with around 100 payday loan issues a week, a figure that has increased by a third compared to this time in 2012; applauds Nairn CAB and Nairn County efforts in helping the local community, and recommends that other clubs follow their lead in this regard.