John Lamont is Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

Fuel Regulator

At the end of last year, I joined in with calls for an independent price watchdog to be set up for petrol and diesel in the UK.

Petrol prices have been up and down in recent months, but they remain far too high in the Scottish Borders, particularly when compared to Midlothian and Edinburgh just up the road. It makes little sense that petrol costs 10p, 15p or 20p per litre more in the Scottish Borders compared to prices in the central belt. We also see prices shooting up when the cost of oil rises but failing to come down when oil drops in price after that.

This isn’t about getting at independent retailers, most of whom run a business on very low margins and have little say in the wholesale cost of petrol and diesel. This is about ensuring that the big oil companies and the wholesalers are not exploiting motorists.

Other utilities like water, electricity and telecoms have independent watchdogs, so why should we not do the same for petrol? For many people in the Borders, driving is a necessity and petrol a significant monthly outgoing so we need to make sure people are not being taken for a ride.

The UK Government has supported motorists by freezing fuel duty year after year and once again in the budget resisted pressure to hike taxes further. But I think more needs to be done, so I’d encourage motorists in the Borders who agree to sign the official UK Parliament petition on this issue. A link to the petition can be found on my website or my facebook page.

Scottish Borders Council – Budget

This year will be full of opportunities but there will most certainly be some challenges along the way.

One major concern, which will directly affect the services everyone in the Borders relies on, is the cuts coming to Scottish Borders Council’s budget from Holyrood.

Politicians from all parties need to put aside political differences and stand up for local services by opposing the £4.5m cut to the budget. These are cuts coming from the Scottish Government, who’s own pot of money is increasing by £950 million, thanks to spending decisions by the UK Government. So any elected representative who claims to want to stand up for the Borders needs to put pressure on the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary to think again.

SBC have been effectively forced in to a council tax rise and, because this won’t even cover the cuts, vital local services are being threatened. That means less money for our roads, for our schools and for support services because of decisions made in Edinburgh.

After initially trying to claim everything was fine, the Finance Secretary now appears to have admitted that he is cutting council budgets after all and of course, this has been going on for years. It is therefore hardly surprising to learn that Scottish Borders Council has run up significant debts, much of which has been under the previous administration. Making these debts cheaper by refinancing them is a sensible step by the council, but it is clear that the current situation is unsustainable.