The rising cost of fuel is hitting rural areas hard, according to NFU Scotland. The longer distances between homes, businesses and essential services mean the fuel bills of those living and working in Scotland's countryside are rising fast. Given the record oil prices, NFUS is calling on the Chancellor to cut fuel duty.
For farmers, increased fuel costs hit hard at harvest time as the costs of combining, drying grain and haulage all take their toll. On top of that, crucial inputs for farms such as fertilisers have jumped in price as the cost of a barrel of oil continues to rise.
NFUS Vice President Bob Howat said:
"The whole country is being stung by higher fuel costs. The rural community is particularly badly affected. Pump prices are generally higher in more remote areas anyway and those who live and work there are further away from essential services. The car is an absolute necessity as the provision of public transport is woeful in many parts of the country.
"Harvest is the worst time of the year for farmers to face increases in diesel prices. The cost of combining and drying grain rises sharply and the cost of getting grain off the farm also goes up. With a significant rise in the price of diesel in the last year, hauliers are facing financial pressure which is often passed down to farmers in increased transport costs. On top of all that, fertilisers and other chemicals used by farmers have a higher price tag.
"Whilst the short-term impact on oil supplies of Hurricane Katrina should ease shortly, the longer term increases in demand from China and India in particular means costs could rise even further.
"We welcomed the Chancellor's decision to defer the planned duty rises for this month but that doesn't go far enough. The UK Government needs to take a hard look at the current duty rates. It is the one element of the pump price that it has total control over. It is within the Government's power to ease the pressure that fuel costs are exerting on the entire country as 67 per cent of the fuel price is tax. It needs to cut duty now and it is a point we will be making to the Chancellor."