HIGHLANDS and islands MSP Jean Urquhart has called on Shetland’s LibDem MSP Tavish Scott to join the SNP if he wants decisive action on the islands’ high fuel prices.
The SNP list MSP from Ullapool suggested Scott needed an urgent word with party colleague Alistair Carmichael, a key member of the Westminster coalition government, to set the ball rolling on fairer fuel prices for rural communities.
On Wednesday the Office of Fair Trading announced yet another investigation into fuel prices, including whether there is sufficient competition in some rural areas.
Islanders greeted the announcement with considerable scepticism.
Scott said: “Yet again the OFT has launched an inquiry into fuel prices – how many inquiries do the OFT need before they find Shetland is being ripped off?
“A recent report found that Shetland motorists pay just over £250 more than those in Aberdeen each year, confirming what we already knew.”
Carmichael, who retained his post as deputy chief whip in this week’s cabinet reshuffle, added: “The fact that the OFT have decided to look again at fuel prices is welcome, but I have some sympathy for those who are sceptical over what result we can expect at the end of this process.
“The government has taken action to keep prices down locally but it is clear by the number of emails and letters I receive on this topic every week that there are real issues within the market that need to be addressed.”
The Con-Lib coalition government introduced a 5p rebate on fuel duty on 1 March this year, a discount that was swiftly wiped out by further petrol and diesel price increases.
On Thursday Urquhart said if Scott wanted to see a permanent reduction in fuel prices he needed to support her party’s call for a fuel duty regulator.
“After all, Alistair is a key part of a Conservative-led coalition government that has consistently ignored the SNP’s calls to introduce a fuel duty regulator that would help to alleviate the appallingly high fuel prices in rural communities.
“The Liberal Democrats are continuing to show that, despite taking the Conservatives’ thirty pieces of silver to form a coalition two years ago, they are delivering little for the islands and not giving their constituents the strong representation that they deserve.
“I look forward to Tavish joining the SNP in calling for decisive coalition action on fuel prices,” Urquhart said.
Reacting to her challenges Scott said late on Thursday: “Once Jean Urquhart votes to stop the centralisation of police, fire, college funding and the removal of housing support grant for Shetland Islands Council, I will take her point seriously.”
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