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Fuel pilot could be months away

PROPOSALS for a pilot scheme to reduce fuel duty in remote communities could be ready within the next few months, according to chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

The Highland Liberal Democrat MP has said that remote communities, and especially islands, had the strongest argument for running the pilot.

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This week fuel in Shetland costs more than 130p per litre, at least 10p more than it costs on the UK mainland.

Mr Alexander said the Treasury was actively exploring ways to pilot a fuel duty discount scheme for remote rural areas.

“We are working hard within the Treasury to find a way to deliver what I think is essential. I feel optimistic that over the next few months we will have some proposals to put forward,” he said.

“The case for a pilot scheme is strongest in the most remote areas where prices are highest, typical journeys are longest and public transport provision is most limited.  Especially in island communities, for example, there is a very strong case.

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“There are still significant hurdles to be cleared, including at European level. I am not in a position to make a pledge on the precise timing.”

The chief secretary’s comments were greeted enthusiastically by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott

“Danny Alexander’s clear recognition of the strength of the case for the islands to be used for the pilot scheme is welcome. I will work closely with Alistair Carmichael to make this happen.

“While the Treasury has work to do on this to make sure that the details of the pilot are workable and legal, they must press ahead with this as a matter of urgency. I will do all I can to hold Danny Alexander to his hope that we should have proposals ‘in a few months’. These need to be delivered  – with an island pilot following close on their heels.

“Shetland has carried the burden of high fuel costs for too long already. Previous Liberal Democrat proposals for a duty discount scheme have been blocked by Labour and Tory MPs. Now that the Tories have been persuaded of the merits of the proposal, they need to work with Liberal Democrat ministers to deliver it without further delay.”

 

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