Page last updated at 12:50 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 13:50 UK

'Scotland's fury' over fuel costs

Alex Salmond

It is a "national outrage" that Scotland is not benefiting from extra North Sea oil revenues, First Minister Alex Salmond has claimed.

He said there was a mood of fury because Scots were paying "sky-high" prices at the petrol pumps.

Speaking during question time at Holyrood, Mr Salmond also said increasing fuel costs were threatening industry in Scotland.

The UK Government said it was taking action to tackle the problem.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has unveiled plans to increase North Sea oil production but, meeting industry bosses in Aberdeenshire on Wednesday, warned that high oil prices could be here to stay.

Facing problems

However, Mr Salmond raised concern that an extra 4bn was going to the Treasury from the North Sea, while consumers struggled.

When asked by SNP backbencher Jamie Hepburn if he agreed Scotland's problems were a "bittersweet irony", given its status as an oil-producing nation, the first minister replied: "A bittersweet irony? A massive, national outrage and it's time we did something about it."

The first minister went on to say ferry operators such as Superfast, which has chosen to abandon its service between Rosyth and Zeebrugge, and other businesses were facing problems because of the rising cost of fuel.

"At some point," he told parliament, "all of this chamber is going to have to recognise, as we see industries and key services come under pressure, that decisive action is needed to address this question because it threatens the very industrial and infrastructure fabric of Scotland."

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The Chancellor defends his fuel record

The first minister said he would continue to press the UK Government to help mitigate rising fuel costs.

But he stated: "I think the mood actually is becoming one of fury in Scotland that we and we alone among the oil-producers of the world, producing 10 times our consumption of hydrocarbons at the present moment, should be faced with an extraordinary position that while every other oil producer, through sovereign funds and the build-up of huge sums of capital, has the resources available to power their economy into the future, what's left for the people of Scotland is paying sky-high prices at the pumps and the industries of Scotland facing escalating costs."

A UK Government spokesman said: "The government understands that businesses and families are feeling the pressure from high fuel prices.

"As the prime minister has made clear, the immediate priority is to encourage oil-producing countries in Opec to increase output to help bring down fuel prices.

"The government does not receive a 'windfall' from high oil prices, as changes in revenues are offset by a number of factors resulting in a broadly revenue neutral effect on the public finances."




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