Transport authority highlights pilot scheme for cheaper fuel in isles
The prospect of a pilot scheme which could herald the arrival of cheaper fuel on the islands was raised again this week, providing hope for motorists waiting to see exorbitant pump prices come down at last.
ZetTrans members backed calls for Shetland to form part of a price reduction project when the transport authority met at the Town Hall.
The discussions came less than a month after Shetland MSP Tavish Scott wrote to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, calling for cheaper fuel to be made available in the Scottish islands.
Oil prices have fallen in recent weeks but petrol prices in the isles remain resolutely high, still standing at the £1.30 a litre mark for either petrol or diesel.
Transport manager Michael Craigie told the meeting that the isles were well-placed to be part of a scheme, particularly as “the significance of fuel prices” had been recognised by the new coalition government, which recently gave assurances it would seek ways of bringing down fuel costs in remote and rural areas.
Mr Craigie promised to bring a report before the next ZetTrans meeting with suggestions on how to engage with the government. “With Shetland being surrounded by sea it would be an ideal opportunity to try out some changes and see how they affect things,” he said.
North Isles councillor Josie Simpson said it was important to get isles MP Alastair Carmichael involved, who had tried to persuade the last government to introduce similar schemes in Shetland.
Mr Simpson, who has openly criticised the Scottish Government in recent weeks, directed a thinly-disguised side-swipe at the SNP authority in Holyrood.
The government sparked a political spat two years ago when they excluded Shetland from the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) pilot scheme which saw pro-nationalist Western Isles benefit from reduced ferry fares.
Having double-checked it was an initiative by the Westminster government Mr Simpson said Shetland would likely be excluded from the initiative if Holyrood had been behind it. “If you speak about pilot schemes they are more likely to go to the Western Isles,” he said.
Meanwhile, discussions are still taking place over a possible deal with a fuel company interested in taking fuel to Shetland in tankers on freight ferries.
The plans, which could see cheaper fuel made available, promises to end GB Oils’ monopoly on supply in the isles and hopefully bring pump prices down to a more realistic level.
The talks emerged last month but a spokesman for NorthLink said they had yet to reach a conclusion when contacted by The Shetland Times.
“The discussions are ongoing with the [oil] company,” the spokesman said, “but we are no further forward than where we were when it was first mentioned at a ZetTrans meeting”.