Govt calm as Grangemouth strike approaches

The government is refusing to active its emergency powers over the impending fuel strike at Grangemouth, with confidence high panic-buying can be avoided.

Yesterday trade secretary John Hutton told the House of Commons increased imports would counter the effect of the refinery’s closure, which has now shut down ahead of the strike.

As a result both London and Edinburgh have resolved there is no need to activate fuel distribution and rationing emergency powers.

The two-day strike, to take place on Sunday and Monday, has resulted in the shutdown of the refinery and the Forties pipeline which supplies the site in Scotland.

“We are confident-and the industry has reassured us-that there is adequacy of supply in Scotland,” Mr Hutton told the Commons.

“That is why we are not activating any of the emergency powers. There is no need to do so, given the adequacy of the levels of fuel supply.”

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond today joined Mr Hutton’s calls for the two sides to resume negotiations to resolve the dispute.

A statement on the Scottish government website said Mr Salmond had been in touch with representatives from both sides of the divide and added fuel supplies were flowing around Scotland well.

Workers are striking in response to pension changes planned by the plant’s owners, Ineos, whose managers union leaders have accused of acting “cynically”.

According to the Unite union the pension scheme at the heart of the dispute will close on August 1st, part of what it calls “incendiary attacks” by the company.

Ineos hit back, however, saying progress has been made on safeguarding the pension scheme for existing staff and that Unite is continuing the strike solely on the basis of protecting future employees’ interests.

The Grangemouth refinery processes about 200,000 barrels of crude oil a day and supplies most of Scotland’s demand for fuel.

The AA advised people to bear in mind that queuing up to buy petrol will waste money in itself and it would be better to try other stations first.