RIP-OFF postal charges are burning a hole in Scots businesses, the founder of the Isle of Skye Candle Company claims.

James Robertson told The National delivery surcharges levied on his firm amount to more than £15,000 per year.

Speaking at the height of the pre-Christmas order period, the entrepreneur backed calls for the introduction of regulation to end what has been dubbed the “postcode penalty” paid by residents living north of the central belt.

The call has been made by Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, who yesterday led a Holyrood debate on the issue.

Robertson’s Skye-made candles are sold online and from own-brand outlets in Broadford, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness, which also acts as the company’s distribution centre. However, his firm does not apply the extra fees charged by many others.

Research by Citizens Advice Scotland found customers in Perthshire, Moray, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City, as well as the Highlands and Islands face mark-ups of 30-50 per cent for goods marketed with free delivery in the UK.

Robertson said: “What’s the point of being part of the UK if we don’t get the benefit of a universal pricing structure? Regulation is needed.

“It is a disincentive to businesses operating in the Highlands when you get hit with extra charges.

“I would estimate that deliveries cost us as much as £15,000 difference, per year. All our materials come on pallets — something that costs £50 or £60 can be as much as £120 for us.”

Robertson, who started the company at just 19, now supplies stockists around the country. A trial with department store John Lewis is coming to an end and Robertson, who is responsible for product development, hopes it will lead to long-term orders by the UK-wide chain.

The 29-year-old aims to turn the brand into a major player, claiming it offers both the quality and affordability to take on market leaders like Jo Malone.

He said: “Their fragrances are amazing and they seem to be the industry standard. It’s a recognised brand and people will pay £40 for a candle.

“The difference between us and them is we purposely try and keep our candles affordable, and ours are all natural. We use biodegradable soy wax and essential oils whenever we can, and we offer a buy-back scheme for the glass jars our candles come in, just like the old Irn Bru scheme.

“I’d love to be the biggest natural candle manufacturer out there.

“People always thought we were at it. More and more, they are starting to see I’m serious.

“For the first few years it was pretty terrible. The candles sold pretty much for the name, but I was playing at it and working other jobs to get money. After four years I realised I either had to give it up and go to university or get serious and turn it into a proper business.”

On future growth plans, the keen surfer went on: “Our workshop on Skye is full. It’s difficult to scale up just now.

“We want to build a new factory. The reason I started the company was to create jobs on Skye.

“We employ 44 people, including more than 20 on Skye, and we don’t want to leave.”