North-east residents have been forced to wait in “massive queues” to send their Christmas parcels due to lack of postal services in the area.
Stonehaven’s main post office, which was situated within the Keystore on Allardice Street, closed in April this year.
Since then, residents have had to rely entirely on one branch, operating from the Co-op petrol station on Arduthie Road.
The branch has been their only means for postal and bank services, since Royal Bank of Scotland also cancelled their mobile unit during lockdown in March.
The increase in demand over the festive period and the size of the store have resulted in long queues forming outside around the petrol station.
Residents have raised their concerns over the current post office being “inadequate”, with fewer services available and many having to travel to other branches outside Stonehaven to send their parcels.
Dawn Black, who is a member of Stonehaven Business Association and the town’s community council, said the service is not sustainable for a town the size of Stonehaven and for its community.
She said: “It’s a vital service and not having one in the town centre has been detrimental, especially to the older people that rely on it.
“They are having to walk up the hill, or take taxis to get to the post office, and then stand in the horrible weather outside to send a letter or collect their pension every week.
“The whole situation is crazy and unacceptable.”
She added: “As a business association we’ve been encouraging people to do the printing and labelling online, and then drop it at the Royal Mail sorting office, but not everybody is tech savvy and has a printer at home after all.
“The Post Office needs to double down on their efforts to find a new operator, advertise it more and perhaps be more open-minded if somebody offers to open a small unit.”
Local businesses and councillors have been urging the Post Office to open a new branch in Stonehaven for several months.
In a letter written to the organisation, north-east MSP Liam Kerr has said residents are being “unfairly treated” and deserve the return of full postal service provision.
He added: “The Post Office acts as a lifeline for groups such as local traders, the elderly and the vulnerable and it’s clear Stonehaven is being overlooked.
“It’s totally unacceptable for residents to be left high and dry, especially at a time where people are relying on postal services more than ever due to the current restrictions in place.”
In a reply to Mr Kerr, the Post Office said it was determined to open a new branch in the town centre having “fully understood” the problems caused by the closure of the Keystore in April.
The organisation’s external affairs manager, Mark Gibson, said: “This is not something we wanted to happen or indeed is it something we would like to see happen.
“We fully understand the impact the closure of a post office can have on a community and I can assure you that we are committed to providing postal services to the residents of Stonehaven.”