‘Productive’ fuel meetings take place

The Scottish Fuels depot in Stornoway. SGD24452.
The Scottish Fuels depot in Stornoway. SGD24452.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) held several meetings in Stornoway today (Monday) to discuss fuel prices in the islands.

They met with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Fuel Action Group, local politicians, campaign group Fair Fuel Solutions and also retailer Gordon Maclennan from Back Filling Station.

Speaking after the meeting. Chair of the Comhairle’s Action Group, Cllr Kenny Murray said: “This was a useful meeting which allowed us to brief the OFT on the latest developments on fuel prices in the Outer Hebrides. The OFT listened carefully to what we had to say and will be undertaking further research into the level of prices and the reasons for them. There is an opportunity for anyone in the community to produce evidence of why prices are higher than compared to mainland prices.”

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan also attended and said the debate about fuel supply to the islands filling stations in recent days had provoked some ‘serious questions’ for the Office of Fair Trading to consider.

Dr Allan commented: “At least one island petrol station has been able to bring its prices down dramatically in the last few days after switching suppliers from Scottish Fuels to Highland Fuels. There may be many reasons for that, but the fact is that many people in the islands are asking why a drop of nine pence or so is possible in these circumstances when Scottish Fuel say they make only 2.4p on every litre.

“Whatever the reasons, this in turn provokes questions about why so many petrol stations are apparently locked into contracts with Scottish fuels on such a long term basis, and from every indication I can see find leaving Scottish fuels a very difficult proposition indeed.

“I believe that Scottish Fuels has a legitimate right to supply fuel to the islands if it can do so at a competitive rate. However, I am troubled to hear any suggestion that filling stations in the islands feel they are effectively denied the chance to switch to what they consider to be a more competitive supplier.

“I have today written to the Office for Fair Trading to ask them whether they consider that the current contracts which many island filling stations have with supplier are in their view conducive to competition. It is a legitimate question to ask.”

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil added: “I fear that there is exclusionary behaviour in our islands with regards fuel and from my point of view contributing to that is the issue of contracts and fuel rebates.

“I would like to see all and any distributors being able to operate in the Hebridean fuel market on an even footing, with no particular advantage given by virtue of history or track record, on any particular day the market operates.

“More widely, it was a productive meeting with the OFT. The Outer Hebrides Fuel Action Group will submit evidence to the OFT, but I would urge anybody with specific knowledge of how the markets work to get in touch with the OFT, either through myself or directly with Kyla Brand, the OFT’s Representative for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Any information will be treated confidentially; this includes information from retailers, businesses and the wider community.

“We need information from all sources to ensure this problem is dealt with and does not continue to be a recurring issue for years to come.”

Pictured is the fuel depot in Stornoway.