The boss of Scottish Fuels will face islanders’ questions on the cost of fuel at a public meeting in Stornoway at the end of the month.
Sam Chalmers, managing director of Warrington-based GB Oils Ltd, the parent company of island main distributors Scottish Fuels, was jostled and shouted at when he arrived at a meeting of local politicians and fuel retailers in October which was organised by islands MP Angus Macneil.
Since then a petition calling for an investigation into pricing by distributors has attracted nearly 1,500 signatures and been lodged with the Scottish Parliament.
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has also told the MP he will get the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to undertake a “wide-ranging” investigation into alleged profiteering.
The meeting has been organised by Callum Ian Macmillan of the Action Now On Fuel Prices For Islanders campaign group who has urged caution over the OFT investigation.
He said it was not what Western Isles residents, who recently signed the petition, asked for because they were demanding an investigation into the near-monopoly pricing policies of fuel distributors to the islands.
Mr Macmillan said: “We’ve already had investigations into fuel retailers in the past which merely concluded there was no profiteering.
“The OFT stuck closely to its ridiculously narrow brief and offered no view on the reason for the price differential of up to 20p per litre compared to mainland outlets which continues to this day. We are told that the difference in transportation costs would work out at very few pence.
“The danger with what is being proposed now is that what has been termed ‘a wide-ranging inquiry’ may yet again lack focus and may yet again not tell the islanders who signed the petition what they want to know – who is profiteering at the expense of islanders and what should the government do to stop it?”
The OFT’s probe follows concerns over the higher cost of fuel in the Scottish islands.
The government agency will examine the wholesale and retail fuel supply arrangements as well as investigate the price difference between the islands and other areas of Scotland and consider if the gap is fair.
The forum is scheduled to take place in the Western Isles council chambers on January 31.