Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie has called for a Diversification Fund to be set up in Scotland to help post offices improve and diversify during the recession.
Such a fund has already been introduced by the Welsh Assembly and similar support could be provided to the post office network in Scotland.
“There are opportunities to develop such a fund in Scotland,” said Cathy.
“Post offices and sub-post offices are crucial to our communities. They provide support in the form of benefits and pensions. In many communities, they provide support for small businesses. In communities that do not have banks, people have the opportunity to use the post office instead.”
Noting instances where sub-postmasters looked out for customers’ welfare, even going to check someone was alright because they hadn’t been into the post office that week, Cathy said: “I do not know of any other service that does that. The post office is an integral part of our communities, both urban and rural. We should consider how we can support our post offices in diversifying, and we should ensure that there is money for improving access to help people to use their post office.
“The proposed post bank would provide another reason for folk to use their post office and would deal with the issue of communities not having access to a bank. It is all very well suggesting that people get benefits and so on through their bank, but if they do not have access to a bank — if there is no bank in their community, perhaps no bank for miles — the idea of a post bank could make some difference. That could support credit unions within the post office’s radius, as credit unions also need access to banks.
“I hope that we can look forward to the possible development of a diversification fund similar to the one in Wales, which illustrates what we could do in Scotland. It does not involve a lot of money, but such a fund recognises the value of post offices in our communities and the importance of making them more sustainable.”
The Scottish Government is “keeping an eye” on the Welsh scheme, but their hand may be forced in budget negotiations, where the idea has backing from other parties, leading Minister Jim Mather in his reply to note that based on the support “from all parts of the chamber this evening, I am sure that that argument will now have extra weight behind it.”