Relief at Arran fuel price drop after facing sky high costs

The Bay Garage in Brodick had ran out of petrol on Wednesday.

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By Colin Smeeton

The price of petrol on Arran has been slashed after drivers threatened to boycott the pumps on the island.

At the height of daily fluctuating fuel prices recently, motorists on Arran were being charged £2.19 per litre, almost 50 pence more per litre than elsewhere, making it among the highest fuel prices in Scotland.


However, this week prices were cut to under £2 a litre at most garages, with petrol at one Brodick garage reduced to £1.89 per litre and diesel reduced from £2.19 to £1.99.

The online debate saw people posting photographs of pump prices where they were, including other island locations where geography also plays a part, and where prices were still as much as 38 pence per litre cheaper than Arran.

Disgruntled residents took their concerns to MPs, MSPs and local councillors, seeking answers.

At the time of going to press prices on Arran still varied by as much as 28 pence per litre at the various garages. MBS in Whiting Bay was the cheapest at £1.70 for petrol and £1.88 for diesel. A&C Cameron in Blackwaterfoot was charging £2.08 and offered no petrol due to a problem with its tank. Thompson’s Garage in Lamlash was the second most expensive at £1.98 for petrol and diesel, while Whiting Bay Garage was at £1.89 for petrol and £1.99 for diesel. In Brodick it was £1.89 for petrol and £1.99 for diesel at the Bay Garage.


One local garage owner, who preferred not to be named, told the Banner: ‘This is an incredibly trying time for garage owners. Fuel costs can rise between the morning and afternoon and not everyone is paying the same cost or using the same suppliers.

‘Fuel costs have risen steeply and, unfortunately, some customers do not understand all of the factors involved in buying and reselling fuel, all they see is the price in relation to others at any given time.

‘Without all of the supporting services offered there is no way that any garage on Arran can survive by petrol sales alone.

‘Even with small profit margins and shrewd buying, prices remain high and are constantly changing. It is becoming increasingly disheartening to be operating a fuel station when fuel profits are minimal, prices are high, and some customers accuse you of overcharging.

‘For all of the grief we have been receiving it might be better if I just stopped selling fuel until better prices return and garage owners can continue selling fuel without all of the bother.’

Incumbent North Ayrshire councillor Timothy Billings said in a local community forum: ‘Earlier this week I went to speak with one of the main fuel retailers on Arran. We had a very frank and open discussion about how pricing works.

‘It is clear from our discussions that the differential in prices between Arran and elsewhere is nothing to do with our local retailers making a fast buck.

‘In fact it is the opposite – they have cut their margins to the level that they are now not able to pay for the wages and rent from the sale of fuel. This is not a sustainable position.

‘Add to that the abuse that some are giving to staff working at the petrol stations it is raising the possibility that Arran’s fuel retailers could curtail their businesses in order to contain costs.

‘The big question has to be how can wholesalers justify the prices they are charging to Arran’s fuel retailers?

‘One very significant element to additional costs is the ongoing ferry disruptions. If a lorry or tanker either can’t get here or can’t get off Arran there is a huge increase in transport costs which is now being passed on to customers.

‘Yes, we need to be angry about Arran’s unfair price differentials – but be angry at the right people, and that is not our local retailers and businesses who, from what I have seen, are taking every possible step to control their costs.’

Meanwhile, MSP Kenneth Gibson, was also approached about the inflated local petrol prices.

He contacted Steve Taylor, managing director of Certas Energy, a wholesale supplier on Arran. Mr Taylor said: ‘Certas Energy does supply two sites you mention in your email from our Brodick depot.

‘I can confirm, however, the relationship is fuel supply on an arm’s length contractual basis. The retail price advertised is entirely decided upon by the independent site owner and is not something that Certas would dictate or advise upon.’

Mr Gibson added: ‘It is disappointing that local garages are blaming Certas for their own pricing policy; which has islanders charged more for fuel than anywhere else in Scotland.

‘A decade ago I negotiated a 5p fuel derogation for Clyde islanders which clearly is not being passed on either. Further to this, I contacted the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) to ask what action can be taken to stop this shameless profiteering, given that the most expensive diesel in the Western Isles at Benbecula, is still 22p a litre less than in Brodick.’

SPICe responded and advised that the regulation of competition and markets is a matter reserved to the UK Government and that constituents may wish to contact their local MP to raise the issue. Mr Gibson discussed this with Arran’s MP, Patricia Gibson, who has promptly dispatched a letter to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on behalf of islanders.

 

While motorists were paying £1.81 for diesel on Harris, Arran residents were having to fork out £2.19 per litre at the start of the month.