Charles Kennedy: Independence would “inflict huge damage” on rural Scotland

Charles Kennedy is not one for the sort of sloppy, casual scaremongering we’ve seen from both sides in the Scottish independence debate. Danny Alexander has form for it, saying, unhelpfully,  the other day that independence would be worse for Scotland than the 2008 economic crash. So when he expresses concerns about stuff, we should probably take notice.

He will be talking today about the effects of independence on rural Scotland, like the massive area he represents. He’s particularly concerned with the costs of providing the postal service.

From the Telegraph:

Consumer Futures, the official postal industry watchdog, told a Commons inquiry last year that taxpayers and post office customers face “spiralling” costs to fund a postal service in an independent Scotland thanks to its more rural geography.

Mr Kennedy is expected to echo this warning, arguing: “The inescapable fact is that cross-subsidy in favour of peripheral areas can be carried a lot more easily within an economy of 60 million people than one of five million.

“The impact of separating from the UK would be disproportionately high for places that depend, for many key services, on the postage stamp principle”.

He will say he has worked to protect the USP – which guarantees Royal Mail postal deliveries six days a week at “an affordable, uniform tariff” – but independence would “undermine that principle and create a completely different set of circumstances.”

“A USP that only covered Scotland would be of very little use to the Highlands and Islands,” he will argue.

The pro-UK campaign can be too centred on key voters in the central belt. Charles’ intervention shows how important it is to get every single vote out for “No thanks” in the highlands and islands of Scotland.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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5 Comments

  • Might become like Canada – no deliveries to homes in deep rural areas. Deliveries are to Rural Route postboxes. Can be miles away from where someone lives.

  • Charles Kennedy is absolutely right; the USP provides a vital cross-subsidy from urban to rural areas without which the latter would become dangerously isolated. The damaging knock on effects would include that legal service of formal notices under many contracts often deems delivery ‘the day after posting’ or similar. This could leave rural people and business high and dry.

    Of course it also begs the question of why on earth the Lib Dems, with many rural constituencies, should ever have supported privatising the Post Office since that is already eroding the viability of the USP, very possibly, as a deliberate policy objective although the Tories will never admit it – when it gets to that stage it will just be ‘tragically unavoidable’ and ‘you can’t buck the market’ etc.

  • GF’s point about the privatised postal service undermining the USP itself rather undermines Mr Kennedy’s point about Scottish independence putting it at risk.

    I personally would favour leaving the single Royal Mail institution as it is, with legal obligations to such governments as exist where it is operating. Unfortunately, in the event of independence, Scottish political sentiment would probably see the portion of the institution operating north of the border nationalised, beyond which point it continues to provide the guaranteed six-day service secure under the subsidy of public funding.

    But it is at the end of the day one of the smaller issues that will need to be hammered out if negotiations end up being required.

  • Alex Dingwall 2nd Aug '14 - 1:49am

    From the Scottish Government:

    Question: Will universal postal services be maintained in an independent Scotland?

    Answer: Yes. This Scottish Government recognises the importance of postal services to sustaining communities across Scotland, and will maintain at least the level of service provision inherited from the United Kingdom on independence.

    Shame to see Charles buying in to the scare stories about things becoming so much worse after Independence – especially as in July this year he signed a motion in Westminster raising “concern” about the sustainability of Royal Mail’s universal postal service within the current UK.

  • Toby Fenwick 2nd Aug '14 - 10:03am

    Alex,

    The problem for the SNP is one of credibility: they’ve made many, many promises about what would happen post indy, and the numbers don’t stack up. Here’s my recent CentreForum paper critiquing the White Paper: http://www.centreforum.org/assets/pubs/scottish-independence.pdf

    Toby

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