Independent Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has today highlighted an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) Report into Road Fuels, saying that it has proven the need for a Fuel Duty Regulator in the Highlands and Islands.

The OFT Report found that, in August 2012, rural areas paid on average 1.9pence per litre (ppl) more for petrol and 1.7ppl more for diesel than urban areas due to the presence of fewer retailers and transport costs for getting fuel to rural forecourts. The OFT Report also found that fuel price rises over the last 10 years have been primarily caused by higher crude oil prices and increases in taxes and duties.

Discussing the OFT’s findings, Jean said:

“The UK has some of the cheapest road fuel prices in Europe before taxes are applied, but these prices are drastically increased at the pump.

“24ppl of the 60ppl rise in the last 10 years is directly due to taxes and duties rather than market forces.

“Consumers and businesses across the Highlands and Islands are being relentlessly punished by a tax regime that does not recognise the necessity of affordable fuel for the economic sustainability of the region.

“I urge the Liberal Democrat MPs in the Highlands and Islands to use what influence they have within the Coalition to deliver a better deal for their constituents by introducing the Fuel Duty Regulator the Highlands and Islands so desperately needs.”


Jean Urquhart MSP has described the Westminster government’s latest act of ignorance towards the needs of the people of the Shetland Islands as “another failure of representation at the highest level”.

It was reported today in the Shetland Times that Shetland Islands Councillor Allison Duncan buttonholed  Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury,  for the coalition’s failure to deliver on a previous promise made regarding housing debt.

The Council, at the behest of the previous Tory government, had built dozens of new houses to host incoming oil workers, with then-Chancellor Ken Clarke promising to write off a £40m housing debt incurred by the Islands- a promise that was never fulfilled.  

Councillor Duncan noted that Mr Alexander seemed particularly “uncomfortable” and unfamiliar with the issue when, during the conversation, a “very discouraging” letter sent by Mr Alexander to the Council regarding the debt was raised.

Mr Alexander’s reticence is all the more striking given his previous calls for Highland Council housing debt to be wiped out by Westminster in 2010.

Ms Urquhart, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said:

“This latest chapter in the LibDems’ involvement in the Coalition saga only deepens the impression of a party out of touch with its principles and its constituents.

“LibDems, who waited a century to regain power at Westminster, have proven to be toothless in representing rural Scotland, including Shetland, which have gone for so long without a strong, local representative on the Westminster government benches.

“Although they were not part of the Westminster government that initially pressed for the building of houses, they are part of the Westminster government that can help deliver on an old promise.

“The most basic element of an MP’s job is representing the interests of their constituency and constituents. In these tough economic times for the Council, how long will it take for the Coalition’s Chief Whip to fulfil this duty for his constituency?

“Or, as with fuel duty, are the LibDems simply providing cover for Tory ineptitude while delivering little for those who trusted them with power?”


Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has expressed her disbelief at Tavish Scott’s comments in the Shetland Times on fuel prices, describing him as “detached from reality” and questioning just what the Liberal Democrats have done on fuel prices as part of the Coalition Government

Jean’s comments came as the Lib Dem MSP for the Shetland Islands acknowledged that it was “obviously not fair” for Shetland motorists to spend, on average, £250 more a year on fuel than those in Aberdeen, and demanded answers as to why Shetland motorists pay so much more.

Jean said:

“If Tavish really wants to see fuel prices reduced, perhaps he should have a word with his Liberal colleague in the Northern Isles, Alistair Carmichael.

“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.

“Just this week, the French Government have struck a deal with fuel producers and distributors to cut the cost of fuel by 6 eurocents per litre for three months, showing that

“The Liberal Democrats are continuing to show that, despite taking the Conservatives’ thirty pieces of silver to form a Coalition 2 years ago, they are delivering little for the Islands and not giving their constituents the strong representation that they deserve.

“They are little more than a politically neutered human shield for an uncaring, Conservative-led Government that continues to treat its most remote communities like dirt.

“I look forward to Tavish joining the SNP in calling for decisive Coalition action on fuel prices.”

Press Release: SNP Brush Off Desperate Stuff From Lib Dems (August 6th)

The Northern Isles will be better-off in an independent Scotland than under UK Government rule, local SNP MSPs Jean Urquhart and Mike MacKenzie have said.

The Highlands and Islands MSPs made their comments following claims by Alistair Carmichael that the islands should be ruled from London in the event of independence.

Jean Urquhart said that the Lib Dem MP’s comments were of little significance and that they should not distract from the bigger issues surrounding the debate on Scotland’s future.

She said:

“The days of London politicians telling us how things are going to be in Scotland are over – these comments only demonstrate just how much Westminster MPs live in cloud cuckoo-land.

“The people of Scotland elected an SNP Government in overwhelming numbers at last year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections and the SNP is totally committed to ensuring the people of the Islands and throughout Scotland can have their say the referendum in 2014.

“Residents of the Northern Isles need only look east to our Nordic neighbours for a vision of the economic prosperity they will enjoy under independence.

“The Northern Isles, in common with much of Scotland, voted in favour of devolution in 1997. The 2001 Census shows that the percentage of people saying they are Scottish is greater in the islands than a number of mainland areas of Scotland. The option of “Other British” and “Other” was available; this highlights the attempts by Mr Carmichael to say the islands are not Scottish as little more than really desperate stuff.”

SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie added:

“As an islander myself, I am a frequent visitor to Orkney and can empathise with Orkney issues. On my latest trip to Orkney I encountered many voters who wanted to have a full and frank conversation on the benefits of independence – something they are being deprived of by their Westminster representatives, whose first resort is to scaremongering, distraction and threat.

“I urge Alistair Carmichael and his Conservative cronies in Westminster to stop playing games and to have a mature and sensible discussion on the benefits that Scottish independence will have for all communities across the country.

“The big issues that people on the Northern Isles are having difficulties with including fuel poverty, transmission charges and mobile coverage are all currently issues reserved to Westminster. The Scottish Government are far more in touch with the needs and aspirations of the people of the Northern Isles than our Westminster counterparts.”