Fuel campaigners in the Western Isles have sent Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, what they say is a ‘dossier of evidence of discriminatory behaviour’ by the area’s main fuel distributors.
The move came after Mr Alexander, a Liberal Democrat MP, launched a fuel duty discount scheme for islanders as calls mounted for an investigation into the charges as prices went up three times in 10 days to cancel out any benefit of the derogation.
The group says they hope the calls for action will now be impossible to resist when many of those campaigning on the issue are Liberal Democrat voters living in some of the constituencies which the party holds in Scotland
Fair Fuels Solutions spokesman Frank Burns said: “Enough is enough. The company that supplies fuel to the islands is GB Oils Ltd. It has a partnership arrangement with ComocoPhillips. This week they reduced what should have been a significant move forward for the people of the islands into what amounts to humiliation of a senior government minister.
“If Mr Alexander, and our MPs and MSPs throughout the islands, don’t now realise now that the people of the islands are suffering at the hands of this operator then they had better wake up and smell the coffee.
“The people of the Western and Northern Isles are not prepared to see our elected representatives ignore what is the most important issue to our communities in a generation.”
In its letter to the treasury secretary, FFS makes the call for an in-depth investigation into the practices of the two companies.
The campaigners also say the Western Isles’ area is suffering from the highest fuel poverty in Scotland and that it is being exacerbated by the monopolistic business practices of the companies at the start of the fuel supply chain.
On March 1, a litre of unleaded petrol on Skye was 133.9p while it was 147.9 in Stornoway less than 40 miles away - but on the other side of the Minch. Industry analysts have suggested that with road transport being costlier than bulk sea transport, the islands’ fuel prices should, if anything, be less than on the mainland.
Scottish Fuels said at a public last month in Stornoway that they were happy for an investigation into their company to take place and were confident that everything was in order.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan met with managers from Conoco Philips yesterday (Thursday) who supply fuel to Scottish Fuels for distribution in the Western Isles.
Alasdair Allan commented:
“As I mentioned in my meeting with the Office of Fair Trading, people in the islands are growing impatient over the lack of any clear information to account for the difference in the cost of fuel between the islands and the mainland.
“Conoco were willing to discuss the worries which people increasingly have about fuel costs, although I don’t expect we will have a clearer picture of how the price differential is accounted for, at least until the OFT have completed their initial enquires.
“I made the point to Conoco that fuel prices have a real human impact and that demand for information on island fuel prices is not going to go away.
“These are themes I will take up with Scottish Fuels when I meet them shortly and I intend to keep up the pressure on these issues.”