finance

Scotland has adequate petrol supply for ‘normal demand’ – Swinney



Scotland has an adequate petrol supply to meet normal purchasing patterns, John Swinney has said, though a spike in demand could lead to pumps running out quickly.

The Deputy First Minister said the Scottish Government had spoken to fuel suppliers about distribution problems in recent days.

On Sunday, the UK Government suspended competition laws to allow suppliers to target petrol stations which are running low.

As well as the shortage of HGV drivers, the industry has blamed “panic buying” from consumers for queues at forecourts around the UK.

Discussing the situation on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme today, Swinney said Brexit was to blame for the lack of drivers.

“There is an adequate supply of fuel to meet normal demand, but it does hinge on being able to distribute that fuel to all locations,” he stated.

“From my experience of dealing with difficulties about fuel supply in the past, when we had industrial action amongst tanker drivers, supply can run out very quickly because the petrol stations are being replenished with supply on a really very regular basis.”

Swinney continued: “In a normal purchasing pattern then, I’m confident there is a distribution arrangement in place that can adequately supply those petrol stations.

“But obviously, if there is an increased demand for fuel, then that will put pressure on the distribution companies in being able to meet that demand in all locations around the country.”

Asked about the supply of goods for Christmas, the Deputy First Minister said that in addition to the shortage of drivers, Brexit had also caused problems with trade between Scotland and the continent.

“It’s not just about the distribution arrangements, challenging though those are, it is also about the fact that the UK Government opted for an absolutely appalling arrangement with the European Union, which could have been avoided if it followed the advice we gave them to maintain membership of the single market.”

Swinney said the Scottish Government had not been in discussions with the Army about using soldiers to drive petrol tankers to stations.

The Prime Minister is reported to have been considering calling in the military to assist with fuel supply, although Environment Secretary George Eustice denied this, stating there are “no plans at the moment” to use the Army to drive petrol tankers.

The Scottish Government drafted in soldiers to help drive non-emergency vehicles for the Scottish Ambulance Service amid pressure on the NHS, an arrangement which Swinney said would be reviewed in November.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) chairman Brian Madderson today confirmed some training had been taking place “in the background” for military personnel to potentially assist with petrol station demand, but he warned that there was no “single lever” the UK Government and the industry could pull to resolve the crisis.

As well as temporarily suspending competition laws, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the creation of 5,000 three-month visas for foreign lorry drivers, in an attempt to ease the pressure on hauliers which has been blamed over the problems.

A statement by Shell, ExxonMobile and other industry bodies again insisted there was no “national shortage of fuel” and that the pressures on supply were the result of “temporary spikes in customer demand”.

But with no immediate sign of the problem easing, Johnson is reported to be holding a series of meetings to consider whether to activate the military for Operation Escalin.

However, Madderson said it was not just a question of moving supplies to the filling stations as drivers had to load up their tanks at the gantry at the terminal, which was a skilled job.

“There has been training going on in the background for military personnel,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “But that’s perhaps just confined to moving the tanker by articulated truck from point A to point B.

“One of the difficulties is loading, and the tanker drivers currently load their own tanks at the gantry at the terminals, and then most are providing the delivery to the forecourt.”

The panic buying spree was sparked last week after concerns from BP were leaked that the shortage of lorry drivers could impact upon its ability to keep up with fuel deliveries.

The surge in demand led the PRA to warn that as many as two thirds of its membership of nearly 5,500 independent outlets were out of fuel on Sunday, with the rest of them “partly dry and running out soon”.

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