By NEIL RIDDELL
GB OILS has come under increasing pressure over the continuing high prices at fuel pumps in Shetland, which are leading to motorists being “ripped off”.
The global price of oil peaked at around $145 a barrel earlier this summer when unleaded petrol was costing Shetlanders 133p a litre. Since then crude oil has tumbled in value and was yesterday down below $80 a barrel, but that shift has not been matched by anywhere near as sharp a reduction in prices at the pump.
Prices in Lerwick have now fallen by around 10p and stood at 122.9p per litre at the Leask Motor Garage yesterday afternoon, but MSP Tavish Scott is arguing the drop should have been almost double that and says it is hard to conclude anything other than that Shetlanders are being ripped off.
Paul Meyer, a consumer advocate who runs the Rip-Off Britain website and lives in Rerwick, has long campaigned on the issue of fuel prices and this week wrote to GB Oils managing director Sam Chambers demanding to know why, despite a huge fall in the global price of crude oil, the gap in prices between Shetland and the mainland was getting no smaller.
In his letter, Mr Meyer asks for clear and transparent answers to his questions, including confirmation of the cost of transporting a litre of fuel by tanker from Grangemouth to Shetland and what GB oils expects retailers in the isles to charge the consumer.
He wrote: “I am not against any company earning a reasonable profit from their operation, but I am against being ripped off by price gouging, especially to an island community who can ill afford these high prices.
“If your company maintains or sanctions these high prices within the Northern Isles and fails to justify them satisfactorily, I shall be calling for a public inquiry by the OFT to investigate whether a cartel exists.”
Mr Scott said the effective monopoly on fuel in Shetland means that individuals, families and businesses are continuing to lose out. He said: “The difference between Shetland prices and the mainland have widened. Mainland averages are now 107p a litre for unleaded. We’re still well over 120p. Someone is making money at the islands’ expense.
“GB Fuels, an Irish company, has the lucrative market for shipping oil from the Grangemouth refinery to Lerwick. That company provides lots of excuses for why Shetland motorists and businesses pay so much more than Scottish mainland prices, but while fuel in Shetland goes up the minute world crude oil prices rise, [it] doesn’t come down with the same speed.”
He continued: “It would also be helpful if the competition authorities got out of their complacent chairs and investigated this consumer rip-off. They seem happy to let banks merge, reducing competition on Commercial Street, and they do nothing about this petrol scam.
“Some Orkney garages are now sourcing their fuel from a different company and the pump price is now 8p per litre cheaper than Shetland, so it seems that the company that we have supplying Shetland is greatly inflating the price.”
Mr Scott added his support to a call from Shetland North councillor Alastair Cooper for an investigation into the possibility of bulk buying of fuel utilising redundant oil tanks at Sella Ness, for use by the council.