Scottish Fuels boss to take part in public meeting

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The boss of a national oil distribution company will return to the Western Isles next week to explain why his company is not to blame for the high cost of fuel there.

Sam Chambers, managing director of Warrington-based GB Oils Ltd, the parent company of island main distributors Scottish Fuels, took part in a meeting of local politicians and fuel retailers in October which was organised by Western Isles MP Angus Macneil.

Protesters were not allowed into the meeting.

Since then, a petition calling for an investigation into pricing by distributors has attracted more than 1,600 signatures and been lodged with the Scottish Parliament. Scotland Office minister Michael Moore has also told the MP he intends to get the Office of Fair Trading to launch a “wide-ranging” investigation into the alleged profiteering.

Reverend Iain D Campbell, Free Church minister from Point, will take on the role of chairman of the meeting next Tuesday.

Fuel prices campaigner Callum Ian Macmillan, a former councillor, who has organised the upcoming meeting, said that the campaign against high fuel prices was an issue for everyone, regardless of political affiliations.

Mr Chambers, to his credit, had accepted the point they had made that it was unacceptable for him to come to a private meeting between politicians and people with fuel-related interests while not answering to the public, said Mr Macmillan.

“He will now address a public audience with his presentation and will take questions. It will then be up to Mr Chambers to tell us all - not the select few - why our prices are sometimes up to 20p more than on the mainland.”

He said he was not holding out much hope that the announcement last week by Angus Macneil MP that Scottish Secretary Michael Moore had agreed to an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading would be worth very much.

“There have already been probes by the OFT and they concluded there was no profiteering. I fail to see what another inquiry by them will do. We need a proper, independent investigation into wholesale distribution costs and profits.”

Unleaded petrol was selling at 141.9p per litre in Stornoway at the weekend while it was 130.9p at several outlets at Inverness. There was a 13p per litre difference in the price of diesel at these same outlets.

Campaigners say they believe fuel is currently shipped to both ports by the same tanker from Immingham in Lincolnshire and that industry analysts calculate the difference in shipping costs to amount to “two or three” pence per litre.

The meeting will be on Tuesday, January 31, at the council headquarters on Sandwick Road in Stornoway. Doors open at 7pm and the meeting will begin at 7.30pm.