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Petrol ‘must be shared’ and not held up south of the border, Scots urge

Petrol must be ‘prioritised across the board’ once the current crisis subsides and not held up south of the border, Scots have urged.

Fears are growing over the country’s fuel supplies not reaching forecourts with some motorists beginning to panic buy the black stuff.

Snaking queues of cars have been forming at petrol pumps across Scotland and the UK as a shortage of lorry drivers, claimed to be around 10,000, to deliver fuel takes hold.

While Scotland’s major refinery is located at Grangemouth, there are similar installations in England to ensure fuel makes it to Scots stations.

People were also queuing for fuel at an Asda forecourt in Sale

Oil giant BP has said it will prioritise delivering petrol to UK stations with those with the most demand going at the front of the queue.

The firm admitted it was having ‘supply issues’ and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has urged drivers to ‘carry on as normal’ and not panic buy.

Rural Scots, particularly in the north and north-east of the country, are often more reliant on cars due to fewer travel options with trains and other public transport.

Last night politicians in the north urged Government chiefs to ensure that the region, and Scotland as a whole, got a fair share when the gas started flowing again.

Petrol 'must be shared' and not held up south of the border, Scots urge
Douglas Lumsden

North-east Conservative MSP Douglas Lumsden, the former council leader of oil and gas capital Aberdeen, said: “If you look at some of the areas in the north-east there is no alternative to a car- there are no proper bus or train services.

“The only mode of transport available to people is cars so if there are fuel shortages I would definitely like to see the north-east being prioritised to making sure there are still petrol in our pumps.

“Fuel prices in these remote communities are often higher than in other places in Scotland so I think it is only right that supplies are guaranteed to those who need it most.”

Petrol 'must be shared' and not held up south of the border, Scots urge

He added: “The value of the United Kingdom is that we have more supplies from across the country and not just from Grangemouth… but I would like to make sure that fuel is prioritised through the United Kingdom and not held up in any particular areas.”

But SNP Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart, the minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, accused the UK Government of ‘smoke and mirrors’ tactics with blaming the lack of lorry drivers on the coronavirus crisis and not Brexit.

He said: “I know the UK Government tries to use smoke and mirrors and say this is Covid related but it is most definitely not because these problems are not happening on the continent.

“The chickens are now coming home to roost and it is people across Scotland and the UK that are suffering.

Petrol 'must be shared' and not held up south of the border, Scots urge
Kevin Stewart

“They need to reverse these policies and in particular to allow for that free movement of labour again.

“It is absolutely essential that fuel supplies reach those people in rural areas and for those folks who have essential jobs that requires them to drive.

“It is essential that the UK Government sorts this out now. We have a perfect storm going on with food shortages, fuel shortages, energy price rises and a cut in Universal Credit.”

A spokesman for the United Road Transport Union, which represents lorry drivers in Britain, said the crisis had long been in the making and had been spurred on by the coronavirus crisis.

He said: “We would definitely you like a guarantee of a fair distribution of fuel across the country.

“Our Union has been warning for many, many years that there will become a point when there will not be enough professional drivers to ensure that supplies are delivered, businesses can continue operating and our supermarkets are fully stocked. All that the pandemic has done is make this happen sooner.

“There is no ‘quick fix’ to the driver shortage. Poor pay and working conditions, over many years, has led to an ageing workforce with retiring drivers substantially outnumbering new drivers.

“Brexit has also led to a dramatic decrease in the amount of professional drivers.

“Rather than relaxing enforcement of the drivers’ hours rules, the government should be concentrating on improving the pay and working conditions of already hard working professional drivers.”

Howard Cox of the Fair Fuel UK campaign group warned that prices were likely to rise in the pumps across the country.

He said: “Today’s ‘fuel shortage crisis’ is totally down to (the government’s) tardy approach to the chronic HGV driver huge deficiency, impacting as we predicted on forecourt deliveries even before the current predicament.

“And here’s the thing, pump prices will rise in direct relation to the ‘don’t panic’ scaremongering messages from this clueless Government.

“FairFuelUK sees pump prices rising 3p plus per litre over the next few weeks, maybe even more.

“The Tories are no longer the driver’s friend.”

He added: “Rural garages and drivers will be hardest hit, together with those needing to visit medical facilities on a routine basis.

“Everyone knows what we pay at the pumps does not follow any logic or fairness when oil prices change.

“The smaller independent garages are subject to their blackmail too, in the prices they are forced to pay, with their wholesalers holding them hostage to their bulk supply.”

To the BBC’s Today programme Mr Shapps promised he would do what is needed to ensure that petrol gets to drivers.

He added: “Not only are there very large and even larger shortages in other EU countries like Poland and Germany, which clearly can’t be to do with Brexit, but actually because of Brexit I’ve been able to change the law and alter the way our driving tests operate in a way I could not have done if we were still part of the EU.”

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