By Alexander Lawrie
DOZENS of truckers descended on Edinburgh city centre yesterday in a protest over the rising cost of fuel.
Around 130 trucks from all over Scotland congregated at Strathclyde Park before the large convoy moved slowly along the M8 to the capital.
The protest was co-organised by trade magazine Courier Direct who are incensed about the escalating costs, and believe the current fuel prices are damaging the haulage business.
It follows similar protests in London and Wales last month.
As the fleet of trucks crawled its way towards the Scottish Parliament, scores of pedestrians and shop-keepers lined the streets to offer their support to the beleaguered drivers.
Brian Regan, managing editor of Courier Direct, said: “We are here to send a message out to the government to cut fuel tax duty as the current prices are crippling the industry.
“To begin with, we are hoping to persuade the government to cut prices immediately by at least 25p.
“It’s really great to see the general public and other motorists give us their backing because we are doing this for everybody, not just the trucking industry.
The convoy was not officially endorsed by the Road Haulage Association which plans to lobby MP’s at Westminster next month.
It was also evident that not all haulage companies in Scotland were backing the protest, with Eddie Stobart being the main company posted missing.
Steven Montgomery, of Montgomery Transport in Lockerbie, said: “It’s a shame that not all hauliers joined in the protest because we need everybody in the business to back the dispute.
“It is not a case of trying to cause any disruption, but more of a message to the government that we just can’t go on like this for much longer.
“I’ve already had to lay three drivers off in the last year because of the huge fuel costs we are being forced to pay.”
The estimated 130 trucks parked near to the parliament, and the drivers marched on foot, behind three designated trucks, to hand in their petition to Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson.
Edinburgh’s motorists kept their cool as the city’s traffic ground to a halt for around half an hour as the drivers made their way to Holyrood.
And local shopkeepers and pedestrians stood and applauded as they walked past.
Kathy Laidlaw, of local shop Cameron’s Upholsterers, said: “I’m in full support of the protest, as every small business in the country is affected by the huge prices.
“The cost of fuel affects us as well as the truckers, and a few shops round here have had to close.
“It seems a way of life is disappearing around here because of the huge costs involved of running a business.”
David Conroy, who lives near to the Parliament, said: “I think the truckers are quite right to protest. How else can they get their message across to the government?
“As for the inconvenience, it’s only one day so other motorists will just have to put up with it, simple as that.
“After all, the truckers are trying to help them too.”
The hauliers were also joined on the protest by courier companies from across the country.
Jerry Stewart, Director at Eagle Couriers, said: “In the courier industry fuel is one of the most important components of your business.
“For years prices have been steadily rising and now they are at a ridiculous all-time high, with oil priced at around $130 a barrel.
“The courier industry is utterly dependent on fuel. It is time to start reassessing our use of petrol and diesel as the world seems to be changing and there is fuel crisis after fuel crisis. There are only so many crises the industry can survive.
“We need as many people as possible – whether from the haulage and courier industries or just normal motorists – to show their support for initiatives like this if they are to have any impact and help drive fuel prices down.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is deeply concerned about the impact of fuel duty rises on communities and businesses across Scotland, particularly for our rural and island communities, where fuel costs represent a significant cost burden.
“We are working with representatives from across industry to press Westminster for change to protect Scottish interests.”