MORE than a quarter of Scotland’s Post Offices have disappeared since 2002, new figures have revealed.
Some of the country’s most remote communities have been hit hardest by the cull, with 22% of rural branches closing over the last 15 years.
The House of Commons Library analysis shows there are now 1403 Post Offices in Scotland – down from 1904 in 2002.
Last year a Sunday Post probe revealed the scale of decline had been masked by scores of branches being closed “temporarily” for as long as five years.
SNP business spokesman Drew Hendry said: “This will set alarm bells ringing.
“Tory cuts to local Post Offices threaten the economic well-being and social fabric of rural communities all over Scotland – and they need to be stopped.
“The SNP will continue to campaign against the closure of rural Post Offices – and call for the expansion of services available, including local banking.”
The House of Commons figures show that in 2002, Scotland had 1187 rural post offices and 717 urban branches.
Now, there are 929 and 474 respectively – 501 fewer in total.
David Bowmaker, of the Communication Workers’ Union, said: “The Post Office is in crisis. It has lost business over the years, and the response from the Post Office has been to cut their way to profit instead of looking at a different approach to the changing demands within society.
“There must be an alternative to this approach to this slow, managed decline of a national institution.”
A Sunday Post investigation last year found 78 Post Office closures had gone unannounced as they were classified as “temporary”, even though many had been shut for more than a year.
The Post Office insisted these branches could reopen but union chiefs said this was unrealistic.
Tom Moran, network development director at the Post Office, said: “The Post Office network is at its most stable for decades thanks to the largest investment programme in our history, which is why the number of branches in Scotland has varied by fewer than 10 over the last four years. People now have unprecedented access to our services, with over 27,000 extra opening hours per week and over 540 branches now open on Sunday.
“However, we do understand that branches which are temporarily closed can be a real concern, particularly in rural areas.
“They may have to close for a number of reasons and it can be more challenging to solve these issues in rural communities, where finding another site or suitable operator is not always easy.
“We always work hard to restore services as quickly as possible.
“Examples of this are Finstown branch on the Island of Orkney, which was temporary closed but reopened in June this year and the new Isle of Harris mobile service has recently restored services to five areas.
“By the end of this month, we will also have opened five new Post Office branches in Scotland since April.”