Andrew Haines, the President of the Freight Transport Association, told a meeting of Scottish MPs this evening (Wednesday 4 June) that the SNP amendment to the Finance Bill, which would impose a freeze or reduction in fuel duty to compensate for rising oil prices, would be very welcome and helpful and that FTA supported such a measure. However, it would not be sufficient to solve the long term fuel duty problem for the transport industry and more substantial changes were required in the tax process.Mr Haines was addressing a reception hosted by the Freight Transport Association in the Scottish Parliament attended by SMPs and guests from Scottish industry.

Mr Haines said that the UK transport industry required fuel duty parity with the rest of Europe. UK industry paid duty on diesel at 50p per litre as opposed to the EU average of just 25p per litre. This differential meant that even in Scotland there was evidence that hauliers from Poland and Hungary could work more cheaply than local companies. This despite having had to travel further, but with cheaper continental fuel in the tank.

FTA was working with the Treasury in order to find ways to relieve commercial users of the unacceptably high duty rate regime. A report commissioned by FTA from PricewaterhouseCoopers showed a way forward and would be with the Chancellor this week. FTA would also be in touch with the Prime Minister urging him to take action.

Mr Haines said, ‘The SNP proposed amendment to the Finance Bill would help the Scottish haulage industry and the economy. We are clearly supportive of this. But we must ensure that the Government does not believe their work is finished by accepting it. True parity for operators in Europe must remain a priority – even in Scotland.'

Andrew Haines also referred to the current calls for direct action and demonstrations in protest against the high cost of diesel and duty. He said, 'Despite the understandable frustration of our members, it is important to engage the issues constructively and FTA has worked assiduously with the Treasury in order to seek a solution. You will not find me or my colleagues chained to the railings at Westminster, preferring instead to fight the issues intelligently, with incontrovertible facts and proposals.'

Earlier Mr Haines had attended a private meeting with the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change in the Scottish Government, Mr Stewart Stevenson SMP.