Coastal tourism at risk from fuel opt out failure

16 June 2006
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith has today (Friday) asked the European Commission to confirm if the UK has asked to retain its opt out from full fuel duty for red diesel used by leisure boats. The opt out expires in December.

Leisure boats bring significant revenues to the Scottish coast, particularly along the west coast and islands of Argyll & Bute or the Western Isles. Any increase in duty would damage trade and jobs on the islands, treble the costs for boat owners and lead to environmental damage as people switch to cheaper but more harmful fuel.

Commenting on the government's apparent failure to apply for the opt out SNP MEP Alyn Smith said;

"If fuel prices increase people will use their boats less, there will be fewer trips around Scotland and that means a fall in tourism and trade across the board.

"Perhaps the Treasury have decided they'd rather have the money from taxes on fuel than see coastal tourism and coastal economies continue to grow.

"The government's own report supports continuing with the tax reduction on red diesel for environmental, social and business reasons, but so far they have failed to do anything about it.

"Scotland is hampered, we can not ask for this opt out ourselves, instead we have to rely on London to do it for us. We are being let down by having no direct representation at the highest level in Europe.

"This failure to ask for cheaper red diesel risks jobs in a fuel dependent industry at a time when other fuel costs are also ridiculously high.

"If the Scottish Executive is serious about helping coastal and rural economies, it should make sure lobby London to ensure this opt out remains."