By Andrew Barr
The UK Government has been accused of causing “panic buying” at the petrol pumps after UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey urged the public to fill up in case of a tanker drivers’ strike.
Coalition ministers described proposed fuel strikes as “completely wrong” but had called for members of the public to keep their cars “topped up” in case.
Mr Davey said people “just need to do the sensible thing… get a full tank of petrol, not a half-tank.”
The Petrol Retailers Association condemned the comments, saying: “This is exactly what we didn’t want – people panic buying.
“Deliveries are still being made to garages and we are advising people to continue with their normal buying habits.”
During Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions, Alex Salmond called for “cool heads” and stated his intentions for a Scottish Government resilience meeting to prepare for any eventuality.
He said: “The priority is surely preventing a strike, not issuing unwise advice about jerrycans. I think more government preparation is what’s required to promote calm and orderly behaviour in the population at large.”
The AA’s Edmund King said that fuel shortages were now being “self-inflicted” by the UK Government.
He said: “If drivers followed normal fuel-buying patterns there would be no fuel shortage whatsoever.
“We now have self-inflicted shortages due to poor advice about topping up the tank and hoarding in jerrycans. This in turn has led to localised shortages, queues and some profiteering at the pumps.”
“Even if we do have a strike, which is unlikely, there will be seven days’ notice of strike action, and therefore time for drivers to fill up. The AA has advised all along that drivers should follow their normal fuel-buying patterns.”
The Retail Motor Industry (RMI), which represents approximately 5,000 petrol stations across the UK, has reported a sharp rise in fuel sales, with some stations showing an 81 per cent rise compared to last week.
The RMI’s Brian Maddison told ITV’s Daybreak that the UK Government had “handled the situation badly from day one” and had encouraged “bizarre behaviour” from the public.
Some petrol stations were even asked by the police to close when trailing queues on the roads became hazardous.
Chief Inspector Nick Maton of Dorset Police, who issued the closing of local petrol stations, said: “The actions of some motorists in queuing irresponsibly at petrol stations is causing danger to other road users. We are taking action by asking petrol stations to close temporarily to keep traffic flowing. Once queues have dispersed, they may re-open for short periods.”
Chancellor George Osborne attempted to divert blame away from the UK Government, saying: “The reason why people are concerned about fuel supplies is because we have a trade union threatening a strike.”
Tanker drivers from the Unite trade union have voted in favour of taking strike action, but no date has yet been set.