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By Hugh Boag
An investigation into the high fuel prices on Arran has been demanded.
Arran Community Council wants the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate a possible monopoly operating in the distribution of fuel on Arran.
Certas Energy is the only company which delivers petrol to Arran with some filling stations also tied to it to supply diesel as well.
It means filling stations on the island not tied to a Certas contract can get their diesel from a ‘low cost’ source and sell it cheaper by up to 10p.
Arran’s petrol is more expensive as it all has to come by tanker via Lochranza, as under Maritime Law it must be transported on an open deck vessel.
With prices rising again this week there was a warning another 9p petrol increase is coming.
All petrol delivered to Arran comes from the Ineos refinery at Grangemouth, whereas other parts of Scotland get theirs from cheaper sources.
In years gone by ‘motor spirit’ was delivered by ship by BP to the old pier at Brodick and was then piped to the huge tanks in Market Road where it was stored for distribution which, the meeting heard, were no longer used.
When Bob Haddow owned the Bay Garage from 1965 till the 1990s he not only retailed petrol but distributed it to the nine petrol stations then operating around the island.
These were all independently operated but he told the Banner: ‘As the profitability of petrol went down the garages that used to retail fuel all stopped except the few left today.’
He said that back then BP was ‘sympathetic’ to Arran and the other Scottish islands with a pricing policy that meant island prices could be kept roughly in line with mainland prices.
However, he said the situation was now very different with Certas Energy, a medium-sized retail and distribution company, competing head to head with supermarket giants which source and distribute their own fuel.
The community council discussed the price of petrol at its first face-to-face meeting at the Ormidale Pavilion on Tuesday for several months, but members have been meeting monthly on Zoom.
Mr Haddow told the meeting that it was unfair to compare petrol prices on Arran with prices in other parts of Scotland.
He said Scotland was divided into three districts with Certas operating in the south, Gleaner Oils in central Scotland and Highland Fuels in the north.
He said Northern Scotland – including Orkney and Shetland – had some of the cheapest fuel in the country as it was brought into Inverness from Rotterdam, which he said, was the cheapest place to buy crude oil in the world.
Islay, he also said, could get fuel to the island by ship ‘piggybacked’ to the gas oil regularly delivered to the island’s distilleries. Stornoway too has a bulk depot.
The community council heard that fuel prices on Arran had already been taken up by North Ayrshire and Arran MP Patricia Gibson but members felt more could be done.
In light of the new information a motion was passed unanimously to write to Mrs Gibson seeking clarification of the situation with a copy of the letter being sent to Dr Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority.
Two new members were co-opted on to the community council this week – Steve Garraway will represent Shiskine Valley and Dr John Adam will represent Pirnmill.