SNP on the fuel crisis – shades of Labour on the 10p tax rate

Today’s Daily Telegraph sums up the concerns about the SNP Government’s handling of the fuel crisis – to quote :
“Alex Salmond was accused of being out of touch with the fuel crisis facing Scotland yesterday after he claimed that the country could cope with a strike at its only refinery.”
Click on the headline above to view the full article.
At this week’s First Minister’s Questions, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, Nicol Stephen MSP, sought to seek assurances from the First Minister that the Government was taking all appropriate steps to counter panic buying and profiteering on the part of individuals and petrol stations in the run up to the Grangemouth oil refinery strike.

Nicol Stephen said, “People throughout Scotland are dismayed and angry at the crisis and the profiteering. The First Minister has just said that there is ample fuel and has called for normal purchasing.

“Does he not know that that stopped several days ago?

“There are now long queues, empty fuel tanks and high prices. The situation is anything but normal. Will ministers stop saying that they have it all under control? Has the First Minister driven home the case to get prices capped, as I asked him to do on Monday? Will he stop ministers pretending that they have secured ample supplies?

“People want real action from the Government, not empty promises that everything is normal. People are genuinely worried. What is the First Minister doing to stop the rip-off and to keep Scotland moving?”

Thereafter – and commenting after a ministerial statement about the Grangemouth fuel dispute, Liberal Democrat Shadow Finance Secretary Tavish Scott MSP said, “The First Minister has promised that there was an ‘ample and substantial’ stock of fuel. The Cabinet Secretary in his statement said that the government needed to ‘mitigate any possible impact’ and if ‘any shortages arise’ then they would act.

“Despite the First Minister assuring the Parliament that fuel would last, ‘well into May’, Lothian Buses, just an hour later, announced that there would be no buses from Sunday onwards. Petrol stations on the A9 are without fuel.

“In the Borders, the local National Farmers Union has warned that there is no red diesel available due to the Grangemouth dispute and the Shell petrol station closest to the Scottish Parliament has run out of diesel and this afternoon increased its petrol prices by 1p a litre.

“Are Scottish Ministers the only people in Scotland not to recognise that there is a fuel shortage?

“It took a personal phone call from the Transport Secretary to reassure Lothian Buses that fuel would be guaranteed. The Transport Minister’s going to have a busy evening tonight if he has to call every bus operator in Scotland to guarantee them sufficient fuel to keep their fleets running.

“SNP Ministers simply don’t know what’s going on.”

Salmond’s handling of this thus far has all the shades of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling’s “head in the sand” approach over the 10p tax rate fiasco. As my party colleague Iain Dale said on his blog ( yesterday :

“They say Ross Finnie has more than a passing resemblance to Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s Army. Today we saw Eck Salmond taking on the Corporal Jones role of running around in turmoil shouting “Don’t panic!” to the people of Scotland.”

“My solution: well there’s the nub. People won’t stop panicking until there is settlement of the dispute. My suggestion is that both sides go back to ACAS and accept their decision as legally binding. It seems the only feasible way out.”