By NEIL RIDDELL
MOTORISTS in Shetland are yet to see a substantial fall in prices at the petrol pumps despite the fact that the price of oil has tumbled by more than $30 a barrel since its peak in July.
The price of Brent crude fell below $112 a barrel on Wednesday, its lowest level since May, having reached a peak of $147 in July. Although the most recent drop in global prices will not be passed on at the pumps immediately, the price of a barrel of oil has been falling steadily for several weeks but the impact for customers so far has been limited.
There has been a slight decrease in the price of fuel in the isles over the past fortnight, but the cost of filling up vehicles remains significantly higher than earlier in the year.
Yesterday afternoon the filling stations at Grantfield Garage and Sound Service Station in Lerwick were both selling unleaded and diesel for 127.9p and 141.9p respectively, while the price on the forecourt at Leask’s was 126.9p for unleaded (the same price it was offering in late May) and 139.9p for diesel. Those figures are, on average, 5p a litre higher than in Kirkwall for both unleaded and diesel.
The wholesale prices of petrol and diesel have fallen by 18 per cent and 22 per cent respectively since UK prices hit average highs of 119.7p and 133p earlier this summer, but according to PetrolPrices.com the average has so far fallen only slightly, to 114p for petrol and 126.3p for diesel.
Those figures mean isles residents are still paying on average 14p more for unleaded and 15p more for diesel than customers on the mainland.
Shetland is believed to be among the most expensive places in the world to fill up a tank.
The Aywick Shop in Yell which, by Shetland standards at least, has a reputation for offering cheap fuel, was this week selling its unleaded for 121p and its diesel for 137p, down 2p and 3p respectively in the past seven days.
Owner Mary Nicolson said it was the lowest price she had been able to offer for quite a while but added: “I don’t think it’s coming down as fast as it should be.”
Supplier GB Oils had not responded to a request for comment from The Shetland Times when we went to press yesterday.
Speaking from Edinburgh, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said the price of unleaded petrol in the capital had fallen below 110p this week after supermarket chain Morrison’s lowered its prices, highlighting the “unfair” difference compared to places like Shetland.
He said: “Shetlanders are still paying a far higher price than anywhere else in the country and, as oil prices reduce, we are the last to see any benefit from that. The current gap between mainland Scotland and local prices is simply unacceptable and it’s difficult not to conclude that we’re being ripped off.
“We seem to be the last people to see the benefits, despite having Sullom Voe on our doorstep; this forces the argument that the competition authorities, if they are worth anything, should be fully investigating.”
Mr Scott has been calling for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate for some time now but said he remained hopeful that political pressure to this effect would eventually pay dividends, though he accepted that it could be a slow process.
He said: “I think the UK Government don’t give a damn about the Highlands and Islands; the Scottish Government keep writing to the Chancellor but he keeps ignoring them [and] we could do with a coherent argument made by everyone to the competition authorities. If they find, as I think, that we are being ripped off, then the government have to take some action.”
In the meantime, individuals and businesses in Shetland continue to bear the brunt of the high prices.
Garry Jamieson, of Sandness-based Jamieson’s Spinning, said the price of fuel was “crippling” and that the company had been forced to put up its prices for the second time this year.
Mr Jamieson said it was “bloody crazy” that it is now costing over £100 just to fill the company’s van.
In addition to the remote location of the factory making a high level of mileage inevitable, the increase in oil and fuel prices has been particularly onerous for Jamieson’s because of the amount of electricity and heating needed for the 30,000ft² warehouse.
The cost of red diesel, used for heating fuel in their boiler, has increased by a savage 200 per cent in the past 18 months, costing the company thousands of pounds extra this year, Mr Jamieson said – and that is before the rise in electricity prices has been factored in.
“I wouldn’t even like to guess what that’s going to cost us,” he said. “The cost of manufacturing in the islands is going through the roof, as well as across the whole of Britain.”
Mr Jamieson said it was an extremely serious problem for the company and that a second price rise in the same year was “very unusual for us” and was solely down to the spiralling costs of oil and fuel.
“[The price of] chemicals has gone up a lot too but we’ve tried to soak that cost up, but we just have to pass [the rise in fuel prices] on to our customers. It ends up that Joe Bloggs on the street has to pay an awful lot more for his jumper,” he added.