Diesel Fuel (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th December 2019.

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Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

4. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking in response to reports of increased levels of fatty acid methyl ester in diesel causing problems with farm machinery. (S5O-03910)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The serious impacts of recent issues that Scottish farmers have faced with gas oil fuel could be deeply damaging for the industry and communities across rural Scotland, particularly in the winter months. As relevant fuel legislation is reserved to the United Kingdom Government, I have taken up the matter with the UK Secretary of State for Transport, pressing for maximum effort towards a workable long-term solution that allows continued carbon emission reductions but ensures that progress is made on the issue.

My officials continue to work closely with the Department for Transport and Grangemouth operators Petroineos to fully understand the issues and the most effective solution. I welcome Petroineos’s decision to change the fuel blend to help ensure that there are no further operational issues.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

I recognise that the matter is reserved; however, I recently met farmers and representatives of NFU Scotland, who are extremely worried about the issues with red diesel. Recent figures suggest that more than 380 farmers have reported machinery failure, which in turn seriously hampers their ability to harvest crops and feed livestock, not to mention the repair costs, which are escalating.

Will the cabinet secretary consider launching a long-term expert working group in Scotland to undertake an investigation into the situation and to help to advise on and deliver those long-term solutions to this very serious problem?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Michelle Ballantyne is correct; it is a reserved matter. It relates to the renewable transport fuel obligation, which is mandated by the UK Government, the specifications of which are set by the UK Government through the Department for Transport. It is important that we get to the root cause of the issue.

As I have set out, Petroineos in Scotland has already taken proactive action, although there have been instances of the difficulty being experienced in other parts of the UK. Transport Scotland officials are directly engaged with the Department for Transport on the issue in order to press the UK Government to identify a long-term solution.

I understand that the group in the Department for Transport that is considering the issue intends to undertake survey work with the National Farmers Union and NFUS to identify the extent and nature of the problem, in order to assist it in identifying what further measures need to be taken to achieve a long-term solution.

I assure Michelle Ballantyne that we will continue to press the UK Government to take early and swift action on the issue, given the potentially serious implications that it could have for the farming sector in Scotland.