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Scottish independence white paper prioritises postal renationalisation

Friday, November 29th, 2013

The Scottish government has pledged to return Royal Mail’s Scottish operations to public ownership if Scotland votes for independence from the UK next year.

Ahead of next September’s referendum, the ruling Scottish National Party issued a white paper this week laying out its plans in the event that people in Scotland vote to separate from the United Kingdom for the first time since 1707.

Among its plans was the reversal of postal privatisation, which took place last month as about 60% of Royal Mail was floated on the London Stock Exchange.

Bringing the national postal service back into public ownership in Scotland would mean “guaranteeing the quality of service that all parts of our country currently enjoy”, the Scottish government said.

The SNP said Royal Mail’s privatisation had been imposed on Scotland despite being opposed by its elected MPs in Westminster, and that in recent years there has been a reduction in the number of post offices in Scotland, while postage rates have increased with “high” parcel delivery charges introduced in rural areas.

It said: “The Scottish Government disagrees with the recent privatisation of Royal Mail. It presents a threat to the Universal Service Obligation which is of vital importance to rural communities. This Scottish Government plans to bring the Royal Mail back into public ownership in an independent Scotland.”

The return of Royal Mail to public ownership is seen as a key priority for the Scottish government to support rural communities.

The SNP said under independence, regulation of mail in Scotland would be in the hands of the Scottish Parliament, transferring from Ofcom to a Scottish regulator, promising “fairer prices” across all of Scotland in rural and remote areas, “especially for parcel services”.

The Scottish government said it would look to match the current UK requirement for a six-day-a-week mail delivery service in an independent Scotland.

Renationalisation

According to the SNP white paper, the Party would bring Royal Mail back into public ownership under independence after 2016, assuming it is re-elected.

Renationalisation would be a complex matter to achieve given the state of the company and its ownership by a broad number of institutions and retail investors since October’s IPO.

The SNP accepted in its white paper that it would need to negotiate with the UK government how much of the current public sector stake in Royal Mail would go to Scotland, and then establish a new publicly-owned postal service.

“Costs arising from this process will also require negotiations with Westminster, recognising that it proceeded with the sale of Royal Mail after the Scottish Government had made clear our intention to bring the mail service in an independent Scotland into public ownership,” it said.

Post Office Ltd, which has remained in public ownership after splitting from Royal Mail Group last year ahead of the IPO, would see a share inherited by Scotland on independence, the SNP said.

The white paper pledged a greater use of Scottish post offices for the provision of government services, which would increase foot flow for subpostmasters and provide more efficient public services to local customers, it said.

The UK Government is allowing the referendum on Scottish independence to take place on 18th September, 2014, but is campaigning against independence.

The UK’s Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael said this week that the Scottish Government’s plans within the white paper were merely a “wish list”, and provided no ideas on how much independence would cost. The “no” campaign has claimed that there would be significant funding and technical challenges to setting up a Scotland-only postal service, with Scottish business suffering as a result.

If a majority of the Scottish people vote in favour of independence, the separation of the country from the rest of the UK would be carried out by negotiations between the two governments.

Royal Mail employs about 12,500 people in Scotland, delivering about 4.5m mail items to 2.5m addresses six days per week.

Source: Post&Parcel/Scottish Government/UK Government

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