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By Jonathan Isaby
The Scottish Conservatives have today added to the pressure on George Osborne not to implement the planned increase in fuel duty in the Budget later this month.
It comes on the day that the FairFuel campaign handed a 120,000-striong petition to Downing Street calling for the 1p rise not to be imposed.
Tory MSPs joined their SNP and Lib Dem colleagues at Holyrood in backing the following motion:
That the Parliament notes that petrol and diesel prices in Scotland are among the highest in Europe and have reached record levels and that the planned rise in fuel duty by the UK Government in April 2011 could increase prices by a further 4p per litre; recognises that such increases impose an additional burden on households and businesses at a time of rising living costs and could undermine the economic recovery; notes the UK Government’s proposal to introduce a 5p-per-litre fuel discount scheme for island communities, and calls on the UK Government to cancel the rise in fuel duty planned for April and implement a fuel duty regulator that would ensure that some of the additional revenue that the UK Government will receive from increased revenues due to recent increases in oil prices is used to reduce fuel duty to help support Scottish households and businesses.
The Green MSPs opposed the motion, whilst Labour's representatives in the Scottish Parliament all sat on their hands.
Jackson Carlaw MSP, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, said:
“Last month Annabel Goldie raised concerns about the cost of fuel directly with the Prime Minister… Labour left the UK finances in a desperate state but, in view of the prevailing record fuel prices, we join the calls for the UK Government to cancel the fuel duty increase Labour planned for April – in so doing families and businesses alike will benefit.”
And on Labour MSPs' failure even to express a view on the issue, he added:
“The incompetence of Labour plumbed new depths this evening. A party which is asking to be taken seriously as a potential government in Scotland has proved itself to be leaderless, clueless and spineless.
“Given the opportunity to support a call for the UK Government to postpone the planned rise in fuel duty – a rise inherited from the last Labour Government – Scottish Labour astonished the parliament by abstaining.
“Motorists across Scotland can now see that Labour is not on their side. Whilst all the other main parties supported the call, Labour MSPs sat on their hands. How can anyone take them seriously when they collapse in the face of the big decisions?”
At PMQs earlier today, David Cameron replied to the demand from North Swindon's Tory MP, Robert Buckland for "the Government do all that they can to ease the pressure on hard-pressed motorists" by saying:
"I know how difficult it is for motorists, and particularly for small businesses and families, when they are filling up at the pumps and paying more than £1.30 a litre. As we have said, we will look at the fact that extra revenue comes to the Treasury when there is a higher oil price, and see if we can share some of the benefit of that with the motorist. That is something that Labour never did in all its time in government, and it ought to be reminded of the fact that it announced four increases in fuel duty last year, three of which were due to come in after the election."