THE BLOG

The Biggest Privatisation in Two Decades, and not a Peep out of the Scottish Government

18/07/2013 15:17 BST | Updated 17/09/2013 10:12 BST

The privatisation of Royal Mail is thundering along at a mighty pace. With the business secretary's statement on the matter coming less than two weeks before Westminster's summer recess, Members of Parliament have little time to scrutinise the Government's plans before the autumn, when the offering of shares is set to begin.

But there are still questions to be asked; the Royal Mail employs over 150,000 staff and their right to fair pay and conditions must be prioritised for the long term. Such a complete overhaul in the ownership of the company will mean shareholders will begin pushing for price increases from the outset, which in turn punishes small businesses and customers relying on the service every day. But despite Royal Mail posting record profits and making huge efficiency gains under the leadership of its new CEO, Moya Greene, Ministers have made it clear that her role was always to get the company to a position where it could be sold-off.

Members on all sides of the House have voiced their concern about the privatisation. Last week, my colleague Ian Davidson MP, held a Westminster Hall debate on the important issue of postal services in Scotland after 2014. Alex Salmond has been relatively tight-lipped on what would happen in this area should his wish to gain independence in 2014 come true, but his party's MPs formed a chorus of disapproval in the debate, with Mike Weir MP stating that "the SNP has stood against, and continues to stand against, the privatisation of Royal Mail, whether it comes before or after independence".

With his MPs so vexed, why has there been no comment from Alex Salmond? Two written answers to my parliamentary questions this week told me that neither the Scotland Secretary nor the Business Secretary had received any oral or written representations from the Scottish Government at all - nothing, not a single letter or phone call to voice concerns about what negative effects the biggest privatisation for twenty years could have on Scotland, either before or after the referendum.

The Royal Mail - with its daily deliveries from Land's End to John O'Groats - is part of the fabric of our nation. For the Scottish Government to take such a laissez faire attitude towards it being sold off before the independence referendum in 2014 simply beggars belief. Perhaps instead of writing to UK Government Ministers to put across the concerns the Scottish people have over the sale of this critical institution, Alex Salmond was too busy writing what the Daily Record described as "grovelling letters" to Scottish sporting stars? We're all very pleased that Andy Murray won Wimbledon this year, but the First Minister's time would be better spent not in writing another congratulatory letter to his sporting hero, but by interrogating the Government's plans for Royal Mail, which will have a huge impact on the people of Scotland.

The Business, Innovation and Skills committee plan to quiz the Secretary of State on the privatisation this autumn. I hope that by then the Scottish Government might have at least hinted at what would happen to postal services in an independent Scotland. With less than 18 months until the referendum, it's another uncertainty that the people of Scotland deserve to have clarified.