RESIDENTS on a Scottish island are facing a 60-mile round trip to collect their mail over a chronic "lack of Royal Mail staff” in the area.

Some locals on the Isle of Islay are going weeks without mail, forcing them to travel up to an hour to the nearest sorting office.

Businesses on the Southern Hebridean island have warned they cannot afford to spend hours travelling to collect items, costing them money and time.

Jim Love was a Royal Mail worker in the region for more than three years until last week. He quit due to what he described as an overwhelming workload.

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He told The National: “Before the pandemic it was a really good job. Not easy but achievable. When the pandemic struck parcels went through the roof because we did it for Amazon as well as Parcelforce and all the Royal Mail stuff.

“We carried on through thinking we are doing good for the community. We care about our customers because they’re our neighbours too, so it’s not just about getting a job done.

“But eventually it got to the point where we just couldn't take it anymore and there have been three occasions where I’ve been there that people have just left en mass – over half the office each time.

“At the most recent one that’s when I thought enough is enough for me. It’s just too much.”

Only a handful of staff were there when Love left the company, he said, claiming the region needs at least 11 workers to cope with demand.

The National: When Jim Love complained to the Royal Mail about his work load, he said the company sent him a bigger vanWhen Jim Love complained to the Royal Mail about his work load, he said the company sent him a bigger van (Image: Newsquest)

Over the last two years, he said, 20 people quit the Royal Mail on Islay - with a dozen of those in the last year alone.

He continued: “In Glasgow there will be people who have been there for decades because it’s a good job – when you’re doing a normal workload.

“But we weren’t doing a normal workload and that’s why people keep coming or going.

“The community have been asking me, ‘why have I got different posts every week or every couple of months’ but the problem is the company isn’t answering that.”

Love said the job is “impossible” to do during normal work hours.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of parcel we have to deliver,” he said.

One business owner in the area said their local sorting office told them they had just one person delivering post and one trainee covering one route on the island, with no others available for the rest of the area.

The National: Some Islay residents are travelling 60 miles to collect their Royal Mail parcels at Port Ellen, in the south of the islandSome Islay residents are travelling 60 miles to collect their Royal Mail parcels at Port Ellen, in the south of the island (Image: Tom Bunning)

Their company does a lot of online retail but the small team is unable to pick up all the parcels.

Gary Kaye, owner of Orsay House Bed and Breakfast, said he’s been experiencing issues with the Royal Mail for a year now.

“There is a lack of posties,” he told The National. "They’ve been employing posties but because of the conditions, the cost of living on the island and the fact the pay doesn’t compensate for that means they’re not staying very long.

“So we currently have less than 50% of the postal staff for the island. And that's obviously before the industrial action started.

“We were almost getting quite used to going a few days without post but it seems in the last few weeks it’s coming to a head.

“The last time we had post was over a week ago and we know there is post waiting for us.”

To get his post, Kaye must head to Port Ellen from Portnahaven on a 60-mile round trip that takes two hours on the road, usually single track.

“We're running a business, so we can't afford to take two hours out of the day just to go down to pick up my post,” he said.

“It’s very frustrating. If you’re running a business you can’t just say ‘oh sorry we are going to close for three hours’.

“It's leading to a lot of frustration on the island. We are not criticising our local posties, the poor guys are doing the best they can, but the problem seems to stem from the Royal Mail which isn't addressing the actual problem. We have a hell of an issue.”

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Audrey Gow, owner of Islay Gin, faces an even bigger journey. She had to drive all the way down to Glasgow, a nearly 300-mile round trip, to pick up important parcels for her business.

She said because of strikes across the country, and the shortage of staff in Islay, she couldn’t rely on her parcel getting to her on time.

A Royal Mail spokesperson told The National: “We do not operate a policy of requiring customers to collect their own mail on Islay. Every item of mail is important to Royal Mail. We are very sorry for any recent delays that our customers may have experienced. 

"We have been affected by some resourcing issues locally, which we are in the process of addressing. Anyone who has concerns over the delivery of their mail should contact the Royal Mail customer service team on 03457 740 740 or via the Royal Mail website”