An oil company boss at the centre of a row over fuel prices in the Northern and Western Isles will come to Shetland to answer calls for a fairer deal for motorists.
Director of petrol and diesel supplier GB Oils, Sam Chambers, has accepted an invitation from isles MSP Tavish Scott to come north and explain his company’s policy on charges at the pumps.
Mr Scott said: “I invited him [Mr Chambers] to Shetland. I got in touch with him and he said he would be prepared to come to meet with people in Shetland because he recognised people need to understand why we are paying what we do on fuel.
“People from every walk of life are affected by this, so an open meeting would be best.”
Mr Chambers’ appearance will come after he attended a public meeting in Stornoway on Tuesday to hear concerns from islanders there. Motorists in the Western Isles have long suffered similar prices to those in Shetland.
Speaking after the meeting Mr Chambers defended GB Oils, parent company to Scottish Fuels, insisting the company only made a margin of 2.6p a litre on diesel.
“The price they are paying here is more expensive than it is for parts of the mainland and obviously they have genuine concern,” he said.
“You can only run a business if your customers want to buy from you. You can only run a business if your employees want to work for you.
“So basically, we are not in the business of trying to abuse anyone. We are trying to be fair and trying to be reasonable.”
Drivers have, for years, had to put up a significant mark-up on mainland prices, with suggestions frequently made that GB Oils may be exploiting its monopoly position.
Currently diesel is typically £1.53 for a litre, while the cost of buying petrol is not far behind.
The cost varies depending on the outlet, but prices have typically been 15-20p higher than those on the mainland.
Ongoing fears are being voiced that any benefit of the long-anticipated 5p fuel derogation scheme, due to be introduced from March, will effectively be cancelled out by recent price hikes.
No date or venue has yet been set, but it’s hoped the meeting will be held in an open forum.
Chairman of the council’s transport authority ZetTrans, Allan Wishart, said he would welcome a visit from Mr Chambers, but insisted competition was key to bringing prices at the pumps down.
“Sam Chambers was up here a couple of years ago when there was quite a bit of publicity profiling the difference in prices between the islands and the mainland.
“I would welcome seeing him up here to have discussions with any interested party, including the council.
“At the end of the day, what controls any price is market forces, and competition will determine the real market price of fuel.”