Galloway Labour MP Russell Brown has expressed concern that the region may miss out on a possible expansion of a fuel price duty discount that currently applies to the Scottish islands and the Isles of Scilly.
Although the UK Government have indicated the scheme, which provides a maximum of 5p per litre, could be extended to remote and rural parts of the UK mainland, and is looking at petrol and diesel prices in 35 areas in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including parts of Dumfries and Galloway.
Fuel prices have been sought from almost 1,500 retailers ahead of making an application to the European Commission (EC) in the autumn for an extension to the scheme, as any change would have to be agreed by the EC.
However, the criteria is so restrictive, it has led to concerns that very few, if any, motorists in Dumfries and Galloway would benefit.
Mr Brown said, “Although the UK Government have asked for fuel prices from a small number of petrol stations in Dumfries and Galloway, in order to benefit from any cut, their prices will have be very similar to those in places like the outer Hebrides. I would doubt whether there are many petrol stations in our region who would meet that criteria. If they do, a discount of up to 5 p per litre would still mean petrol at those stations would still be far more expensive than petrol at stations in other local towns. This scheme will therefore do nothing for drivers in our region, whether they live in rural areas and have to pay far more for their petrol than those in local towns or people who live in our towns who still find themselves paying more for petrol than those just over the border in Carlisle. The biggest increase in petrol prices came as a result of the UK Government’s recent hike in VAT and the best way for the Government to help hard pressed motorists is to reverse that tax rise. We also need a proper inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading into why motorists in our area pay so much more than those in neighbouring Carlisle. Although this token gesture scheme from the UK Government will do absolutely nothing to help people in Dumfries and Galloway, it will be their taxes that have to fund the petrol price cuts in the islands and remote parts of the Highlands.”