Rural communities should not be made to wait for their fuel VAT rebate, says the Countryside Alliance.
Seven Highland areas are included in the Treasury’s plans to offer cheaper fuel in remote parts of the UK, unveiled in August.
It is an extension of the current rebate scheme which allows retailers of road fuel within the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Northern Isles, the Islands of the Clyde and the Isles of Scilly to register with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to claim back five pence per litre (ppl) relief on unleaded petrol and diesel for retail sale within the eligible areas.
However Highland MP Danny Alexander, who is Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced on 5 November that the extension has been put on hold until next year, to pinpoint other communities also deserving of a price cut.
This means the application to the European Commission for it to be implemented will not now be made until next year, and those communities already chosen will have to wait longer for the proposed rebate.
Countryside Alliance research shows that the rural commute is an average of 25% more expensive than the urban commute and fuel prices tend to be higher in areas with fewer petrol stations and less competition.
Director for the Countryside Alliance Scotland, Jamie Stewart, said: “We are very disappointed that the planned duty discount has been delayed.
“The burden of high petrol prices weighs far too heavily on those for whom cars are a necessity due to long commutes and lack of public transport options.
“We have sympathy with the areas overlooked in the original assessment but don’t see the necessity for another consultation. We simply need to make sure that every area that should be eligible for the rebate is included in an application to Brussels, so the fragile communities they serve see the benefit. Action on the cost of fuel is a matter of urgency."