Scottish haulage bosses left London last night “deeply disappointed” after the UK Government defied a demonstration against soaring fuel costs.
Exchequer Secretary Angela Eagle voiced sympathy for road users but flatly rejected SNP proposals for a “fuel duty regulator” using claimed windfall revenue from VAT on the soaring price at the pumps to reduce increases.
A separate Liberal Democrat proposal for a 5p per litre cut in pump prices in remote rural areas, including large parts of the Highlands and islands, was also rejected.
At the same time she rejected a Tory bid to restrict a series of savage increases in vehicle excise duty on 4x4s and other gas-guzzling cars to those buying new vehicles.
Road Haulage Association Scotland spokesman Phil Flanders said he was “not surprised”, and warned of future protests, adding: “Some very desperate people watching their businesses go down the pan sometimes do things they should not.”
Rob Howie, managing director of R. A. Howie, of Kintore, among hauliers from the north who lobbied MPs earlier, said: “Protests will go on. They cannot stop now. Things have gone too far.”
He praised SNP MPs for trying to help the industry but accused Scottish Labour MPs of lacking sympathy and challenging their figures.
He said whether protests take place in the north and north-east will depend on the reaction to yesterday.
Earlier, Fred Grant of A. and F. Grant of Ballindalloch, Banffshire, said the industry could not sustain fuel costs that have soared 50%, and warned: “If this continues there will be a huge reduction in jobs in the north and west of Scotland.”
And Stuart Jamieson of Norman Jamieson, Dundee, said fuel companies are becoming so worried about transport businesses they are demanding payment before customers have met their bills.
After the debate, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Liberal Democrat MP John Thurso claimed “real progress” had been made because Ms Eagle had promised to study his plans for a rebate for remote areas sympathetically — contrasting her promise to consider them with the flat refusal of her predecessors.
He said he would press his case and hope for a concession in Chancellor Alistair Darling’s autumn statement.
His proposals, with SNP backing, were defeated by 305 votes to 67.
The Lib Dems abstained on the SNP’s proposal for a fuel regulator which lost by 309 votes to 15. Furious SNP Treasury spokesman Stuart Hosie said Scottish Labour and Liberal MPs “have essentially voted for fuel prices to continue careering out of control”.
He said it was “scandalous that in oil-rich Scotland key sectors are struggling to fill their tanks”.
At least one north-east lorry from David Murray Transport of Carnoustie, was among hundreds of hauliers required to park in a section of London’s normally busy Westway before being escorted by police in groups to Parliament Square in a “non-disruptive” demonstration, blowing their horns outside the Commons.
Kent-based haulier Peter Carroll, of the fuel protest group Transaction, warned that unless government policy changed, some drivers could take part in spontaneous and disruptive action.
Mr Carroll said: “I fear that if the government does not listen, they might do things that we would not condone but which we would understand. It breaks my heart when I meet people who have had to remortgage their homes and are now facing a kind of commercial slaughter on a gigantic scale.”
Mike Wright, 61, a driver, said: “I can see wildcat protests taking place and it will not just be London that is affected. They will block every motorway in the country and then the government might listen.”