THE UK Treasury has quashed suggestions of a fuel rebate for Shetland, citing the fact that motorists might drive here to fill up with lower duty fuel as one of the reasons.
Ignoring the fact that the isles are reachable by car only through an expensive 12 or 14-hour ferry journey, minister Angela Eagle said: “Having different duty rates in different areas could well create perverse incentives for motorists to drive further in order to fill up on low duty fuel, both distorting the fuel market and resulting in an increase in carbon dioxide emissions, contrary to the government’s policy of seeking to reduce pollutiong emissions.”
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said: “The reasons given by the Treasury for not proceeding with this much-needed fuel rebate for the islands verge on the ludicrous.
“If the Treasury seriously thinks residents from the Scottish mainland are going to pay to board a ferry and cross the sea to fill their tank with cheaper fuel then they are far madder than any of us realised.”
In a letter to Mr Carmichael, Miss Eagle said the Treasury had looked into the possibility of a fuel duty rebate for the islands in some detail. But Mr Carmichael rejected the claim.
“Put quite frankly I find this hard to believe taking into account the embarrassing reasons given for not investigating the option further. The Treasury clearly have no concept of the problems faced by islanders forced to pay drastically higher fuel prices.
“It is incredibly discouraging that Angela Eagle has so comprehensively missed the point. The point is not that prices go up and down but that they are constantly higher in the Northern Isles.
“If this letter is an example of the Treasury’s grasp of reality then it is little wonder that our country’s economy is in the red and spiralling into recession.”
Meanwhile councillor Allan Wishart this week called for action on fellow member Alistair Cooper’s suggestion of bulk-buying fuel for the council’s use and using redundant tanks at Sella Ness to store it.
He said: “I know there’s a lot of public concern about this issue – can we look for resources to propose a preliminary feasibility study?”
Mr Cooper’s suggestion is to look at the possibility of storing fuel either for council or even for retail use through the petrol pumps. Mr Wishart said that rules and regulations meant the storage and distribution, particularly of motor fuel, was not straightforward and said that a low level feasibility study would be useful.
“I understand from other people [who have tried to arrange meetings with GB Oils] that it can take some time.”