No justification for mortgage ‘discrimination’
Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has demanded an explanation as to why folk in the Scottish Islands, bar Skye, cannot apply for a Post Office mortgage.
Ms Urquhart has written to the UK minister responsible for the Post Office, Lib Dem Jenny Willott, and the managing director of the company Paula Vennels.
The problem was raised by a Shetland woman who received a letter promoting Post Office mortgages, even though she would be unable to apply for one.
Ms Urquhart said the local post office played “an absolutely central role” in many rural communities, including the islands.
“I would hope that relationship could extend to all of its services,” she said.
“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.”
Post Office spokesman Syeda Hasnain, said the Post Office regularly reviews its policies and is considering how mortgages could be more available in the Scottish Islands.
“This would be subject to resolving the wider issues we have encountered, particularly with regard to the supply of valuations,” she said.
Meanwhile, Scottish enterprise minister Fergus Ewing has said businesses should do more to reassure customers in rural and remote parts of Scotland they will not suffer disproportionate delivery charges.
Mr Ewing, along with Trisha McAuley, of watchdog Consumer Futures, has written jointly to retailers across the UK.
This follows the launch of the Parcel Delivery Working Group last year, established by Consumer Futures and the Scottish government to set up a code of conduct for the industry.
The letter asks businesses how they will follow guidelines in a Statement of Principles For Parcel Deliveries and how they will make sure people are not discriminated against for living in rural areas.
The statement was agreed by industry, government, trading standards and consumer groups.
Mr Ewing said: “Although the principles are voluntary we believe they will help to support businesses and reduce the number of customers who abandon purchases at the last minute because they find out the cost of delivery.
“It is not acceptable to hear reports of customers in the Highlands and Islands experiencing excessive charges, being refused delivery and being misled by the term ‘free delivery’.
“The Scottish government, together with Consumer Futures, is committed to ensuring the parcels delivery market in Scotland works in the interests of both consumers and business.
“We would encourage retailers to take on board these guidelines and in turn customers, particularly in the Highlands and Islands, will receive a fairer service and abidance by their adoption of these guidelines online retailers will show respect for their customers.”
In Voe, Tagon Stores are offering a new delivery service to combat postage charges.
Through the Collect Plus system, customers are able to send and receive parcels through the shop – with a number of multinational companies including Amazon signed up to the scheme.
Customers can also send parcels to someone’s house or to another local shop operating the scheme.