Taxi operators could hike up their fares because of the ongoing fuel price saga, which this week saw diesel nudge towards £1.50 a litre.
Chairman of the Shetland Taxi Owner’s Association, John Anderson, said recent hikes in fuel – combined with January’s VAT increase of 2.5 per cent – are forcing drivers to reluctantly consider passing the mounting costs on to their customers.
In a letter to this paper he said the move could impact on “vulnerable groups” who regularly rely on taxi services.
“This 20 pence premium which we are paying in these islands has no bearing on freight and delivery costs and smacks of uncaring monopoly,” he said.
His comments came as a debate over fuel prices was held in the Scottish Parliament on, with Shetland MSP Tavish Scott calling for the UK government to scrap its scheduled rise in fuel duty next month.
The SNP has meanwhile launched a bid to have responsibility for fuel duty devolved to the Scottish parliament.
Mr Anderson, a retired fisherman from Whalsay who operates two taxis mainly in Lerwick, said the prospect of increasing fares was discussed at a recent association meeting.
He stressed no firm decision had yet been made, but warned: “It’s a very strong possibility.”
“The events of Libya could prompt us to ask for a rise in prices, as well as the local situation,” he said.
“The feeling at the meeting was that we would not like to put it up very much because we think we are defeating our own purposes. It would only be with great reluctance. But we’re trying to think where we’re going to be in six months’ time.
“Anything that could be done to stabilise our fuel prices to somewhere within reach of mainland prices would be welcomed. We think it can’t possibly cost 20p a litre extra to transport fuel to Shetland.”
Hopes are still running high that a fuel discount scheme will offer relief, of up to 5p a litre, to motorists in rural areas. But negotiations are still being sought with Brussels to get it up and running.
Speaking after the mid-week parliamentary debate, Mr Scott said action needed to be taken by Westminster to help curb the growing problem posed by the cost of fuel.
“It’s clear there is a real desire to send a very strong message to the UK government about the impact high fuel prices are having on every aspect of life in Scotland.”