An Aberdeen riding school has seen its fuel bills double in just weeks after the right to use red diesel was withdrawn.
The Aberdeen Riding Club in Peterculter previously relied on deliveries of cheaper fuel to run a tractor on its 130-acre site.
However, in April new government legislation was introduced to limit who can use red diesel in a bid to cut emissions – including the Aberdeen club.
Sally McCarthy, director of the riding club, says she has seen her bills rise from £430 every two months to £980.
She now wants to see the UK government change its restrictions on who can and cannot use red diesel, saying the added costs mean she can offer fewer free lessons to disabled children in the area.
What is Red Diesel?
Red diesel is exactly the same as regular diesel, but a red dye is added to it.
It can only be used in off-road vehicles and machines and is taxed less than diesel at the gas station.
But from April 2022 new legislation has been introduced to restrict who can use red diesel – vehicles and machinery used in agriculture, horticulture, fish farming and forestry are among those still eligible.
Red diesel accounts for around 15% of all diesel used in the UK and is responsible for producing 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
“Stuck between a rock and a hard place”
Ms McCarthy said: “We use around 1,000 liters of fuel every two months and have always been eligible to use red diesel.
“We have an off-road tractor to feed the animals and tend the pastures, so it’s quite similar to other qualifying livestock work.
“But the difference is that we are classed as a recreation facility instead of an agricultural one.
“And other leisure groups are still allowed to use red diesel if they are a community group like a golf course or a tennis club, which is exactly what we are.
“We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
Ms McCarthy said she believed HMRC assumed all riding clubs were privately owned rather than a not-for-profit community initiative like the Aberdeen Riding Club.
She added: “There is a huge cost implication as we now have to buy diesel at the forecourt price.
“Our fuel costs have practically doubled – our last delivery of red diesel two months ago was £430 for the tank, and this time it was £980 for the same amount.
“It’s a huge sum for a non-profit sports club and I really don’t want to have to raise the price of riding lessons because of it.
“And the ripple effect is not being able to provide as many subsidized places.
“There’s still an old-fashioned view that people assume it’s about wealthy, horse-riding individuals, but our offer is aimed at people in Aberdeen who don’t own their own horses.”
asks the Chancellor to intervene
Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn has since written to new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi to try to get the rules changed to allow the club to use red diesel.
He said: ‘The Chancellor has the power to make a sensible change to the legislation to allow Aberdeen Riding Club to use red diesel, just as golf courses and the agricultural sector can.
“Equestrian center farmers are being punished and burdened with even higher costs at an already very difficult time with two other riding schools in the North East forced to close in recent years.
“Soaring fuel costs could be the final straw for many riding schools, so I hope the UK government will see the sense and extend the red diesel exemption to riding centres.”
HMRC has been approached for comment.
Scottish MP tables parliamentary motion on red diesel rules
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[Aberdeen Riding Club sees fuel prices double due to red diesel rule]