Islands across Scotland could be left without home postal deliveries due to a huge rise in demand for online shopping, politicians and union leaders have warned.

The Herald previously reported that residents of Islay were being forced to make 50-mile round trips to collect their mail after numerous Royal Mail workers left their positions, with Jura (which uses the same service) also affected.

Former posties explained that the rise in online shopping during the pandemic, with their rounds also involving delivering Amazon and Parcelforce packages, have made workloads intolerable.

Now a union leader has warned that the crisis could spread from Islay and Jura to other remote communities in Scotland – and perhaps even further.

Craig Anderson, Scottish regional secretary for the Communication Workers Union said: “My understanding is that there were seven postal workers on the island, I think there may only be one left.

Read More: 'I was living off donations' Islay, its postie shortage and a community with no mail

“The island is like a lot of rural communities where the mail basically comes over on the ferry in bags and has to be tipped, sorted and distributed out.

“As far as I’m aware people have left because of a high workload.

“As things have changed with the pandemic, most postal workers have got more parcels. More people are shopping online, ordering stuff online, and obviously for an island community it’s quite an advantage for a lot of residents to just go online, order something and it’s there either the next day or the following day.

“The question of resource on the island is something that we’ve been raising, as well as the workload.

“We raised concerns prior to the people leaving, we think that this is something that could happen again in the future.

“Part of the reason we’re on strike is because of how the company wants to change. It wants to change the role of postal workers and put more pressure on individuals.

The Herald:

“My understanding is that the company has advertised for new personnel but obviously they’re an island community, the amount of people who are available - or the amount of people who want to work for Royal Mail - is lower than elsewhere.

“I think they’ll have trouble recruiting on the island due to the limited number of people staying there, but also the terms and conditions and the pay is probably less than other businesses or industries on the island.

“You’re pushing more and more productivity and more and more work onto people who are already stretched, especially in a rural area where you don’t have blocks of flats or housing estates, you’ve got rural deliveries.”

Councillor for Kintyre & the Islands Alastair Redman agreed: “That is the concern, and so many of our communities are small villages that have maybe seen the closure of the local shop, closure of the local school, some of the churches are under threat now.

“This seems like just one more damaging consequence of rural depopulation.

The Herald:

“You cannot have a one-size-fits-all policy for a rural Scottish island and an inner-city area it just makes no sense.

“It does feel like at this point on Islay Royal Mail is no longer functioning and you cannot keep running this institution on fumes – it needs the proper support.”

The CWU will undertake six days of strike action between November 12 and December 1, as they look to secure a pay rise in line with inflation as well as halting proposed changes which could see Uber-style self-employed drivers introduced.

For Mr Anderson, that could spell disaster for Scotland’s island communities.

He said: “Owner-drivers and bringing in agencies isn’t going to work in remote communities, because there just simply aren’t the people there to do it.

“We’re afraid that what’s happened in Islay will be replicated elsewhere, that it won’t be seen as a good employment opportunity for a lot of people.

“You’ll have a casualised, transient work force, people will come in and do it for a wee bit and move on.

“You’ll have peaks and troughs similar to what’s happening in Islay, everything’s fine for a wee while then suddenly it’s a car crash.

"Out of the strikes, first and foremost, we’re looking for a pay rise that meets the cost of living. Especially in somewhere like Islay it’s not particularly cheap if goods are being brought in from the mainland and wherever else.

“Our workers are struggling with the pay that they get and the company doesn’t seem to want to give them something that matches inflation.

Read More: Royal Mail accused of 'absolute breach' of service obligation on Scottish islands

“The other issue for us is that they seem to want to go down a route where in some places, or possibly throughout the business, they want a kind of ‘Uber model’ where people will work for themselves.

“That, for us, is not going to work – certainly on a small island community like Islay.”

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “We have the best terms and conditions in the industry.

“We pay 40 per cent more than other parcel companies. We want to retain those terms and conditions. The best way to do that is to make the changes we require.”

The Herald: Royal Mail hits back over backlog

On the strike action they added: “The CWU is playing a dangerous game with its members’ jobs and the future of Royal Mail. We urge CWU to withdraw these strikes, for the good of our customers and our people.”

Mr Redman, while admitting his frustration with the strike, insisted unionised workers were not to blame for the problems.

He said: "It’s really hard for many of my constituents. My only anxiety is that Royal Mail is allowed to blame this on the strike.

“Now, the strike hasn’t helped, it has exacerbated the situation – I’m not a fan of it, to be honest. But the fact remains they’re short-staffed on the island, they have a high turnover of staff and I think a lot of that is down to the overall conditions they’re under.

“They’re not paid past five, so certainly that’s a big problem in a rural area. In an urban area you can whip round your walk on Royal Mail quite quickly, everyone’s quite tightly packed together.

“In a rural area there’s a lot of travelling. So in the winter you’re going to be working past 5, and if Royal Mail don’t want to pay people to work they shouldn’t be surprised that people can’t afford to be postmen and postwomen.

“On top of that some of the housing they’ve been providing for Royal Mail workers is not in the best of condition. There isn’t that much incentive for them to be postmen and women on the island and that’s leading to a real problem because they’ve got a backlog to clear and it’s only going to get worse come Christmas.”