Marlyn Glen : I congratulate Jamie Hepburn on securing this debate on the Royal Mail.
It gives us the opportunity to praise the achievements of the Royal Mail and to repeat the points that my Labour colleague, Cathy Peattie, made in her motion: “Keep the Post Public”. Unfortunately, Cathy Peattie cannot be with us tonight.
The debate gives us the chance to restate our support for the continued public ownership of the Royal Mail and to underline the importance of the universal service obligation to people across Scotland and the UK.
It is a matter of social justice that a letter can be posted at the same price to any address in the UK.
I am pleased that there are continuing discussions on the subject. I, too, support the Communication Workers Union’s position that the best way in which to protect the universal service obligation, including six-day-a-week delivery, is to keep the post publicly owned.
At a time of economic recession, the Royal Mail and its staff are making a profit.
The Royal Mail Group third quarter results show revenue of £2.6 billion, up from £2.5 billion last year. All four businesses are in profit.
This year’s profit to date of £255 million compares favourably to the £162 million profit for the whole of last year. This year’s full-year profits are expected to be double those of last year.
The profits would be higher were it not for the uncompetitive conditions under which the Royal Mail has to deliver mail for rival companies.
For instance, there is the inbuilt difficulty for the Royal Mail of having to deliver over the last mile.
That obligation is essential for the public, but expensive for the Royal Mail.
Although many Labour MSPs have strong opinions on tonight’s topic for debate, they also know that the matter is reserved.
That said, there can be no doubt that Labour MPs are standing up for the principles.
Dundee West MP Jim McGovern, a former parliamentary private secretary, is one of the 140 Labour MPs to sign the early day motion on the subject.
As Bill Butler said in his intervention, we should contrast what the SNP is saying in the motion with what it said on forestry privatisation.
The SNP Administration eventually backed down from privatising our forests, but no SNP member made a principled opposition and that was on a devolved issue that is within our competence.
Jamie Hepburn: Will the member give way?
Marlyn Glen: No. I have only four minutes.
Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP): Feartie.
The Deputy Presiding Officer: Mr Gibson, that kind of remark is not appropriate. It will not be repeated.
Marlyn Glen: Thank you, Presiding Officer.
The fundamental problem with the Royal Mail is a lack of capital.
I urge consideration of alternatives to recapitalise it to allow it to compete on a level playing field.
In 2007, the UK Government agreed to a £1.2 billion loan facility on commercial terms to modernise the Royal Mail’s operations but, two years later, only half that money has been spent.
Gavin Brown: Will the member give way?
Marlyn Glen: I will not take an intervention because I have no confidence in what the Conservatives might do to the Royal Mail should they be in power.
I am sure that that feeling is shared by members of other parties.
That is an important point.
The current proposals could lead to profitable services being cherry-picked and the core Post Office being left with massive obligations and no real earning capacity.
I also share the unions’ concerns about possible job losses at a time when job retention should be a priority.
The Royal Mail is an integral part of the country’s social fabric.
I urge cross-party support for the call for a new relationship between management and postal unions and welcome the Communication Workers Union’s commitment to negotiate an agreement that would support the modernisation of the industry while retaining universal provision.