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by Andrew Learmonth
24 September 2021
First Minister appeals for calm as petrol shortage fears fuel panic buying

First Minister appeals for calm as petrol shortage fears fuel panic buying

Nicola Sturgeon has appealed for calm after fears of a fuel shortage led to long queues at petrol stations.

The First Minister took to social media to urge drivers “to buy responsibly.”
The panic buying follows warnings from three of the UK’s biggest operators. BP has closed several garages and said that up to 100 are short of at least one grade of fuel - though this is less than one per cent of their network. 

The oil giant has said it will cut deliveries to about 90 per cent of its stations in an attempt to distribute supplies evenly. 

Esso owner Exxon Mobile said a “small number” of its Tesco forecourts had been affected, while Shell confirmed that it was experiencing “increased demand for fuel which may in some instances result in larger queues.”

The petrol problem has been caused by a UK-wide lack of HGV drivers, partly due to Covid, partly Brexit and partly by poor wages and conditions. 

The industry estimates there are 100,000 vacancies. The impact has already been felt in other supply chains, with supermarket bosses warning of shortages on their shelves. 

About 25,000 HGV drivers from the EU left during 2020 and did not return, while a further 50,000 British drivers with HGV licences have also stopped working during the past 18 months. 

There is also a backlog of 40,000 waiting to take their HGV tests. 

What makes recruiting petrol drivers harder is that they need a special qualification to deliver hazardous substances.

On Friday afternoon, the UK government moved to relax immigration rules in a bid to allow thousands of lorry drivers from overseas into the country. 

Reports in the FT suggest Boris Johnson overruled Home Secretary Priti Patel and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to bring in the “interim” measure.

The paper says that officials are looking at extending the seasonal agricultural workers scheme for “a few thousand HGV drivers and few thousand food processing workers”.

An ally of Johnson told the paper: “Boris is completely fed up with bad headlines on this and wants it sorted and doesn’t care about visa limits any more.”

Shapps told LBC Radio earlier on Friday that the armed forces could be brought in to drive lorries if the situation worsened.

Taking to Twitter, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Worries about supply chain problems understandable. Many of these issues have been caused/exacerbated by Brexit & UK gov has duty to find solutions fast. @scotgov will help all we can & I have activated our resilience unit. In meantime, I’d urge people to buy responsibly.”

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Time is right to reform Scotland's exams, says education minister

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