Second class response.

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shutletterbox.jpgSome three weeks ago Robin put down a motion here which invited the Nats to offer to bear the cost of loss-making post offices, and to recognise the essential social role they provide. Currently just one other MSP has signed it, and you won't be surprised to know it's Patrick.

Next time you find yourself listening to an MSP from any other party blathering on about saving their local post offices, ask them why they didn't sign up to the only proposal yet that would have saved the lot in one go. I'll tell you why, though. It's a dirty little secret.

These people actually love post office closures. At the Meadows Festival, it's all the Liberals wanted to talk about (although I insisted they talk about airport expansion). A threatened closure is a perfect campaign opportunity, a way to get local members motivated and to get into the local media. The printers here on the fourth floor whirr with little else.

The scandal is that they don't want to fix the problem, and one way to tell is that they only want to save the specific ones in their constituencies. I don't know about you, but I sometimes find myself in other parts of the country wishing there was a post office too.

Some are more hypocritical than others - and yes, Nigel Griffiths, I mean you, because you did vote for closures and then you campaigned to save them. But the same lack of an alternative applies to Liberal, Tory and SNP campaigners. As far as I know, anyway. Perhaps they've got a great plan - I know the Liberals considered privatisation, which would be one sure way to get as many closures as possible in the shortest time.

The bottom line is this. If they don't sign the motion, and they don't come up with an alternative of their own (which I would love to hear), you can tell they have no interest in fixing the problem, and just want to profit from the consequences. 

If they sign up, we could build a common campaign, and make post office closures a thing of the past. For instance, 43 closures were announced today, and Jamie Hepburn railed against them. Sign the motion, Mr Hepburn, start the ball rolling, then we'll know you're serious. 


It's maybe because the motion's mince. You'd be better having Patrick and Robin sign the one I've pasted in below which was lodged in June.

While I'm on, though, was it not a bit cruel of you to force the LibDems to talk about airport expansion when they've got a candidate in a difficult position as an airport lobbyist? You are a bad man sir!

Anyway, here's the motion:
S3M-02105 Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (Scottish National Party): The Post Office Closure Programme— That the Parliament expresses its opposition to the Post Office closure programme, an irrational, haphazardly executed plan to hastily scale back the Royal Mail Group even though it provides social cohesion for many of our communities; recognises that one-third of Prime Minister Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP’s cabinet have tried to save branches in their own constituencies, the same Labour ministers who, without foresight, voted in favour of the programme and considers this position to be hypocritical; insists that the UK Government ends this ongoing lack of direction by clarifying its long-term intentions for the postal network and allays the ongoing fear of additional closures yet to come; seeks protection for the universal service obligation, vital for Scotland’s large number of rural communities, and a speedy update of the Code of Practice on Post Office Closures; joins the Business and Enterprise Select Committee of the UK Parliament in calling for compulsory attempts at replacing sub-postmasters who retire; joins the committee in noting the lack of co-ordination between regulators and the UK Government with respect to the social impact of withdrawing payment systems from the network; urges the Department for Work and Pensions to award the card account contract, a service of fundamental importance to the whole economy, to Post Office Ltd (POL), as any other decision could devastate the network as the service is used by more than four million customers and represents a vital foothold for sub-postmasters and believes that POL is the best and most accessible provider of this service anyway; supports the Royal Mail, as it tries to regain confidence with the business community, local councils, who are making existing offices more sustainable and attempting to put work their way, and rural churches, who have not been included in the stakeholder information network but are able to contact and represent many of the more vulnerable and excluded members of the community; opposes the relatively short duration of public consultations, effectively making it difficult for many voluntary organisations to participate meaningfully in the decision process, which also falls below the eight-week minimum specified in the UK Cabinet Office best practice guidance; rejects observed proportionality in closures, which exacerbates existing levels of disadvantage, with outreach services often open for only two hours weekly, which is unacceptable for those who, due to inclement weather conditions, may have to wait weeks for an opportunity to collect their pensions, and considers that outreach services that are unable to accept postal packets weighing more than 2kg, which is a considerable inconvenience, has a negative impact on local business and defies the universal service obligation, which extends to packages up to 20kg in weight; appreciates the role played by Postwatch in the pre-consultation stage although seeks greater openness from POL in this stage to enable greater opportunity for changes to be made later on; seeks more limited confidentiality, given the substantial public investment in the network and keen public interest in the outcome; is concerned with POL’s execution of the closure programme, noting evidence of intimidation, claims of bad practice, and allegations from local councils that POL ignored information necessary to properly implement the access criteria and determine whether offices were Disability Discrimination compliant; regrets that POL has not been prompt nor definitive in responding to government reports and that POL did not engage properly with local MPs from the outset of the programme; questions the motives behind the closure programme when outlets could simply be developed, thereby creating a real and sustainable solution rather than closing them; further rejects recommendations by Postcomm for the partial privatisation of Royal Mail by reducing the universal service obligation and also rejects the closure of offices with an attached shop that together represent the last remaining outlet in a community, noting that several such closures have taken place; opposes the closure of financially profitable offices, which may have taken place but cannot be confirmed due to POL’s lack of financial transparency and low public confidence; agrees with independent reviewers who state that opening up the postal market to competition has led to no significant benefit for consumers while at the same time has hurt the elderly, the infirm, and those without transport, and hopes that UK ministers will appreciate the complex nature of, and wide-ranging benefits arising from, the postal network, which seemingly, as experienced so often under Labour, have been disregarded.

Supported by: Bill Kidd, Brian Adam, Dr Alasdair Allan, Alex Neil, John Wilson, Bashir Ahmad, Jamie Hepburn, Stuart McMillan, Christina McKelvie, Sandra White, Michael Matheson, Angela Constance, Gil Paterson, Joe FitzPatrick, Keith Brown

Lodged on Tuesday, June 10, 2008; Current

Which is all fine, and includes loads of serious issues around card accounts, consultation, rural churches etc. And sure, the financial issues would be reduced if they hadn't botched the moves to competition, which I oppose altogether.

But it doesn't make any commitment to trying to spend the money needed to fix the problem, given that we are where we are. Is it the SNP view that London should cover all the shortfall, do I assume? It doesn't say anywhere how you'd actually guarantee a solution.

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