Fight for fair deal, Urquhart urges

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Post Office mortgages will be available to some folk in Shetland following a change in policy.

The company has decided to extend its coverage to Scottish is­lands including mainland Shetland, but other islands will be considered on a case-by-case basis, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

Mr Carmichael said he had spoken to chief executive of the Post Office Paula Vennells for a second time, after raising his concerns last week.

Mr Carmichael said previously that he was “alarmed” that the Post Office did not provide mortgage services to the Scottish isles, and a public service should not deny people access becuase of where they live.

He said: “I am delighted that the Post Office chief executive has confirmed to me that she has already been able to extend the availability of these mortgages to mainland Orkney and mainland Shetland. She continues to work on the widest possible coverage and in the meantime all applications, wherever they come from, will be considered on a case by case basis.”

The issue came to prominence earlier this month after Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart also raised concerns. This was after a woman in Shetland had tried to apply for a mortgage but was told she was not eligible.

Mrs Urquhart’s office said the Post Office had agreed to change its policy to include Scottish Islands including mainland Shetland. But she had been told by the Post Office that provision to remaining islands would be kept under review.

She said: “We desperately need alternatives to the big banks, and Post Office financial services could play a big role in that. It’s great news that at least some islanders will now be able to benefit from that greater choice.

“But there remain many islands still excluded from the Post Office’s mortgage services, including all of Shetland other than the mainland. So I’ll keep pushing to persuade the Post Office to stick to its roots as a truly universal service.

“After I raised this issue last week, the Post Office listened, and responded quickly. They’ve shown they are willing to engage, and I understand they are keeping their island mortgage rules under review.

“So I would urge Shetlanders from the outer islands who would like the choice of a Post Office mortgage to contact them and tell them the demand is there.

“The islands continue to be discriminated against in everything from delivery charges to LPG prices. This good news just makes me more determined to keep fighting for a fair deal for island consumers.”

Last week Mr Carmichael explained the conditions were constructed by the Bank of Ireland, who are the actual mortgage providers.

In a statement to Ms Urquhart a Post Office spokesman said: “I can confirm that following our review, and in response to customer demand, the wide range of Post Office mortgage products will now be available to customers in Skye, Bute, Lewis & Harris, mainland Orkney, mainland Shetlands (sic), Arran, Mull and Islay.”

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