Scotland’s most fragile communities have won a 5p fuel duty discount, benefiting more than 100,000 motorists in the country.
The European Union has approved the roll-out of rural fuel rebates to 17 areas in Scotland and England, the majority being in the Highlands and Argyll and Bute.
Cars are a necessity, not a luxury, for people living in remote communitiesDanny Alexander
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, who represents Inverness, said it would provide a much-needed boost to families facing some of the highest fuel prices in the world.
The discount allows retailers to claim back up to 5p per litre duty relief on unleaded petrol and diesel, and pass on the savings to customers. It will cost the UK government’s Treasury around £5 million a year.
This is the first time that the EU has approved a fuel discount on the UK mainland, but the scheme has already been criticised for not covering all remote areas.
The discount will come into effect from 31 May. The areas include Highland communities at Acharacle, Achnasheen, Appin, Carrbridge, Dalwhinnie, Gairloch, Strathpeffer, Oban, Lairg, Mallaig, Ullapool, Halkirk and Strathcarron. There are a further three in England – Kirkby-in-Furness in Cumbria, Hawes in North Yorkshire and Lynton in Devon.
Mr Alexander said: “I have made introducing the rural fuel rebate a top priority because I know from my own experience that cars are a necessity, not a luxury, for people living in remote communities – and that petrol in these areas is far more expensive than the rest of the UK. Combined with the current fall in oil prices and the freeze in fuel duty rates nationwide, this 5p discount on fuel prices will provide a much-needed boost to families who face the highest fuel prices.”
SNP Councillor Maxine Smith, Highland Council’s budget leader, said: “We are living in hard-pressed times and every little helps so this will go part way to alleviating some companies’ and householders’ struggles to make their own budgets balance. Highland Council and politicians have been pushing for a fairer deal for years and even though this comes a few weeks before a general election, it is still welcome news for some parts of the north of Scotland. However, I am disappointed that it is not to cover the whole of the Highlands.
“Whilst I welcome the relief in the areas it does include, we must bear in mind that people travel all over and do not necessarily live in the area that they work.
“It would have been less complicated to have made it a level playing field. By identifying individual postcodes in the Highlands, it could create unfair competition amongst Highland petrol stations.”
Jamie McGrigor, Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP, said: “There are many areas which feel excluded.”
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams described the move as a “landmark moment”, adding: “People living and working in rural communities by their nature rely most heavily on their vehicles, so it’s right that they should not have to pay more.”
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