By Cara Sulieman
SCOTTISH holidaymakers who need to get a last minute passport are being forced to make a 260 mile round trip to Belfast or Durham as the Glasgow office struggles to cope with the rush.
The Identity and Passport Service says the summer rush is to blame for the mishap, but an angry MSP claims it is due to English postal applications being sent up to the Scottish office.
But the Glasgow office was supposed to stop processing postal applications last year.
The Fast Track one week and Premium one day services require customers to make an appointment and turn up at the passport office.
But Scots calling the helpline in the past few weeks have been told their only chance of getting a passport in time for their trip is to travel to the other nearest offices in England and Northern Ireland.
David McLeish from Stewarton in Ayrshire booked a holiday to Turkey for his 20-year-old daughter Hayley.
But he then discovered her five year passport had run out a few weeks earlier and called the passport helpline to book her in for a fast track appointment.
He said: “We called the helpline on the Monday and hoped to get an appointment that week but were told it wasn’t possible at Glasgow.
“Apparently our nearest office is Belfast, but as Hayley would need her passport to board a plane to get there it wasn’t an option.
“The only slot they could offer us was in Durham on the Friday.”
In desperation, David contacted Sandra White MSP, who has run a campaign against job losses at the passport office in Scotland.
He said: “After Mrs White’s intervention my daughter was offered an appointment in Glasgow and she got her passport.”
“Depleted staff levels”
Sandra White said: “Sources have told me Glasgow is inundated by postal applications from England and staff have no time to attend to anything else.
“Almost 100 jobs were cut at the Glasgow office last year and this is the result – a depleted staff working round the clock.
“It’s a disgrace to ask anyone living in Scotland to travel to England or Northern Ireland to get a passport – especially because the reason is the office here has been deluged by postal applications from down south.
“Applications from Scotland should have priority at our country’s only passport office. It’s another erosion of the service in Scotland. It’s now little better than second rate compared to the rest of the UK.”
Job cuts at the Glasgow branch last year meant that they would no longer be processing postal applications – but would still take appointments for over the counter service.
A spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service confirmed that the Glasgow office was helping out with postal applications and that Scottish customers were being offered appointments in other offices, but insisted the two were not linked.
He said: “In recent weeks Glasgow was requested to undertake some postal work to assist other offices maintain national turnaround targets. This was not at the expense of counter activity.
“We are experiencing high volumes of business across the UK and cannot guarantee customers will be able to get an urgent appointment on the day of their choosing.
“Where urgent appointments slots are available at short notice in other offices we will offer customers the option of attending another office.
“Any increase in postal applications has no impact on counter service.”