First Minister Alex Salmond will be accused of “gloating” over soaring Scottish energy prices tonight.
Scotland Minister David Cairns plans to launch a bitter personal attack on the SNP leader’s demands for a share of the revenue “windfall” from which the first minister claims the UK Treasury is benefiting, pointing to the way Scots motorists, consumers and businesses are suffering from record energy costs. His controversial remarks will be delivered at the annual dinner of French-owned oil giant Total at Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire.
Mr Cairns, number two to Scottish Secretary Des Browne, will not actually name the Banff and Buchan MP, but will say he deplores “those politicians who see such record prices as some sort of cause for joy, as though all it represents is a windfall for politicians”.
Sources close to the Scotland minister confirmed there was no doubt at whom he will be pointing his finger following Mr Salmond’s demand for a share — put in some reports at £500million — of an extra £4-£5billion which the Treasury will rake in as a result of VAT levied on forecourt prices charges for petrol and diesel already inflated by excise duty.
Mr Cairns insists: “Oil prices at current levels are bad news for the economy, bad news for motorists and bad news for people struggling to pay fuel bills.
“Sky-high oil prices are not good news for Scotland.
“Instead of gloating about the taxation revenue potential of high oil prices, all serious politicians should be following the lead of the prime minister and be working flat out to secure a reduction in the high cost of a barrel of oil, not using it as a dubious means of making dodgy sums add up.”
He believes Gordon Brown has already acted over global oil prices, piling pressure on oil-producing countries to increase output and travelling to Jedda on Sunday at the invitation of the King of Saudi Arabia to try to improve the dialogue between oil producers and consumers.
Mr Cairns will also underline the Treasury response to Mr Salmond’s “windfall” claims — that if families are forced to spend more on fuel they will spend less on everything else, reducing the VAT take on consumer spending, with the result that overall revenue will remain more or less the same.
He believes Mr Brown was right to make clear that as part of the UK Scotland shares the risks and resources as well as the rewards, including a £30billion Scottish Government budget.
Last night, however, SNP energy spokesman Mike Weir issued a new call for the government to act following a forecast gas and electricity prices will soar another 40% next winter. The Angus MP said: “People just cannot keep absorbing colossal energy price increases, and the government must step in.”
He called for “a top-level review of the domestic and international energy market”.
Mr Weir said the pressure of soaring energy prices, compounded by increasing raw material and fuel costs, is crippling business, as well as domestic customers.