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Fears for rural filling stations

18 May 09 12:38 GMT

About half of the rural filling stations in the north of Scotland and the islands could close within 10 years, a report has warned.

The survey said as many as 114 of the area's current network of 231 petrol stations could shut across the Highlands, islands, Moray and Argyll.

The worst affected area was said to be Orkney, where 17 of the 28 filling stations were described as at risk.

The survey was compiled by consultants Experian Catalist for Highland Council.

The report said the closure risks were due mostly to low profitability.

Iain Ross, chairman of Highland Council's planning and development committee which will consider the findings later this week, said the consequences of fewer filling stations would be significant.

The Highland councillor said: "We have seen a great loss of stations over the last 10 years and the strong indications are that this will continue.

"There are people such as the elderly and those who live and work around a particular community who could be faced with very significant journeys there and back just to fill up with fuel - clearly that is not acceptable."

Mr Ross added: "Undoubtedly there will be an impact for some industries, not least of all tourism."

In 2007, unmanned 24-hour self-service fuel pumps were suggested as one way of halting the decline of small rural filling stations in the Highlands.

However, Highland Council officials who floated the idea ruled out deploying mobile fuel pumps on health and safety grounds.

Meanwhile, two remote Highlands communities took over their petrol pumps to keep them open.

Residents of Applecross set up a community company to run the village station in 2008.

The previous year Sleat Community Trust in the south of Skye took control of the local forecourt.

The Skye Ferry Filling Station was managed for almost 40 years by Donnie and Colleen MacKinnon.

They placed the business on the market following their retirement.

The filling station is close to where cars come off the Armadale ferry.

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