A NATIONAL reader has told of his frustration at being charged a delivery fee on heat logs despite living within walking distance of the factory where they are made.

The area of Corpach, near Fort William, is home to a BSW sawmill (pictured above) where timber products are manufactured along with energy solutions created from the wood waste.

Ronnie Hughes, who lives in Corpach, attempted to buy a pallet of “Hotties” – heat logs made from wood waste at the sawmill – from a BSW company called Wood Fuel Direct that offers “free UK mainland delivery” on the product manufactured by BSW and costing £449 online.

However, upon progressing with the order, Hughes realised that, despite being within walking distance of the sawmill, he would have to pay a delivery charge.

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Hughes told the Sunday National: “I was informed that there would be a £35 delivery charge to Corpach as Highlands and Islands were not considered part of the UK mainland for delivery purposes.

“The product is made in Corpach and then I understand transported in bulk to a depot down south. From there it is distributed with free delivery to customers on the UK mainland.”

Hughes visited the sawmill in Corpach – a few hundred yards from where he lives – where products from the sawmill are sold to the public and was quoted a price of £478.20 for the pallet of Hotties.

He added: “This is still £29.20 more expensive than the rest of the so-called UK mainland with free delivery. On the face of it, it all seemed very unfair if not a little mad. Surely business operating and distribution systems could be adapted to create a practice that is more environmentally friendly and fairer to people living in the Highlands? All it needs is the will and a little imagination.

“It seems like these systems are geared up for the rest of the UK and those of us living in the Scottish Highlands don’t seem to be considered.”

The National: Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead

Richard Lochhead, SNP MSP for Moray, has been campaigning against unfair delivery charges for rural Scottish areas and has worked to make it easier for Scots to understand charges they face through the Scottish Government website fairdeliveries.scot.

He told the Sunday National: “This is another example of the Highlands being hit hard by rip-off parcel delivery surcharges and this particular case illustrates very well the anomalies and plain daft consequences for customers. 

“Online trading has rocketed during the pandemic and there are many examples of Scots consumers paying ridiculous surcharges for parcel deliveries. The fact that the Highlands is not being categorised as mainland UK by some companies with these surcharges being applied is scandalous and should be investigated by trading standards. 

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“Ultimately we need the UK Government to review the legislation to stop this discrimination but so far UK ministers have shown scant interest in the issue despite its high profile in Scotland. Maybe if the English home counties had been affected, we’d have seen more action from Tory ministers by now.” 

The Hotties product is manufactured exclusively at the Corpach sawmill which also has a Wood Fuel Direct retail outlet on-site where people can purchase products. The products are then sent to distribution centres in the central belt or in England.

Oliver Stephen, mill manager at the Corpach site, told the Sunday National that extra charges are due to haulage on BSW products being carried out by another company that charges them extra for deliveries to some Highland postcodes.

He accepted the cost was “not ideal” for BSW either but said the Wood Fuel Direct outlet attached to the mill is a separate entity and has to make a margin on products that it sells.

Stephen, who has lived in the Highlands for 35 years, shared the frustrations of extra charges being placed on deliveries.

He said: “I’ve got the same frustrations as Ronnie had in that being in a Highland address and having an extra charge is not ideal for anybody.

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“We have the same issue with purchasing things for the mill – engineering parts and spares – we have to pay additional costs to get them here basically because of where we are.

“It’s as frustrating for me as a business leader as it is for an individual trying to buy something.”

He added that most companies will charge extra to deliver something to an area like Fort William despite offering free deliveries to Oban and Inverness.