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[Un-allotted Half Day] — Fuel Costs

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 7th February 2011.

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Photo of Eilidh Whiteford Eilidh Whiteford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Fisheries) 6:15 pm, 7th February 2011

We have heard a lot this afternoon about the need for the Treasury to balance its books, and about the role of tax in that, but the fundamental underlying question is: why should people have to pay more and disproportionate tax just because they do not have access to public transport or happen to live in a rural area? I am all for tax, so long as it is fair, proportionately applied, and people are not discriminated against for living and working in a rural area.

The impact is felt particularly by businesses. As other Members have said, goods and services have to be moved into and out of parts of rural Scotland by road, and in many areas we already have to overcome significant challenges arising from our distance from markets. The area I represent has strong food processing, farming and fishing sectors and a great deal of manufacturing, but companies in northern Scotland have to cover the extra costs they incur and the extra taxes they pay, but nobody else has to, in order to make viable business plans. We have come through difficult times but are still struggling to emerge from the recession, and the fluctuating price of oil causes great instability and uncertainty for business. Big and small businesses alike struggle with that. Big businesses can sometimes buy fuel while in greater debt, but small businesses, which are often the greater engine of growth in our communities, really struggle with the unpredictability caused by fluctuating prices.

In conclusion, I urge the Government to honour their commitments before the election. I cannot over-emphasise the urgency and immediacy of this issue in rural Scotland. I urge them to consider the matter seriously. We have heard a lot about the derogation. I hope that not just island communities will be included in that, but that, notwithstanding the difficulties, other rural and remote parts will be included too. I also hope that much more attention will be given to the stabiliser, which, ultimately, will create fairness in the system and proportionality in the taxation on fuel.