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The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"The protesters feel that the whole operation was incredibly heavy handed"
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BBC Scotland's Gillian Marles reports
"Many motorists say they will turn to public transport if they run dry"
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BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay reports
"About 170 truckers and their vehicles arrived in convoys"
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Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 22:23 GMT 23:23 UK
Tankers break Grangemouth blockade
Grangemouth picket
Famers and hauliers are picketing at Grangemouth
Fuel tankers have broken through the blockade at the Grangemouth oil refinery.

Ten lorries left the BP plant on the Firth of Forth at approximately 2230 BST on Tuesday under a police escort.

Demonstrators at Grangemouth - who have picketed the refinery since Monday - stood five metres back from the police line to show they did not want any trouble.

But they claimed the police response, which was estimated to have involved between 150 and 200 officers, was heavy handed.

"We intended to allow the vehicles through," said Mark Williams.

Petrol pump
Long queues at Scotland's filling stations
"There were far too many police. It was totally over the top. We were entirely peaceful and we were determined to remain that way."

But the man in charge of the operation said the response was for the safety of all concerned.

Superintendent Tom Barker of Central Scotland Police said: "It is a testament to the operation that nobody was injured."

He confirmed the fuel leaving the refinery was for emergency use only, but would not give any destinations.

Emergency services

The move came after Esso resumed deliveries from Purfleet in Essex and follows Prime Minister Tony Blair's pledge to get the tankers moving and end the fuel shortages.

BP had earlier received a list of designated filling stations from the government under its emergency powers.

About 170 trucks had gathered to protest at the plant, where deliveries had been suspended since the picket started.

Traffic at standstill

Meanwhile, retailers have predicted that Scotland could run out of fuel overnight as the petrol crisis deepens across the country.

Demonstrators also brought traffic to a standstill in Edinburgh and Aberdeen before the protests expanded to take in Perth later in the day.

They also brought their action direct to Chancellor Gordon Brown when lorry drivers pulled up outside the TUC conference in Glasgow.

Mr Brown defended the government's stance to delegates at the Scottish Exhibition Centre on Tuesday and ruled out any change in policy.

Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar chaired emergency talks with Scottish cabinet ministers over the crisis.

Mark Williams
Mark Williams: "Totally over the top"
Afterwards he urged demonstrators to end their protest before innocent people were harmed.

Ministers have told motorists not to panic - despite warnings from petrol retailers who fear that the panic buying which started on Monday will see Scotland running out of fuel completely on Tuesday night.

Some areas have already run out of unleaded fuel and filling station owners have warned that they may have to start laying off staff if the protest continues much longer.

The government is also determined to prevent problems for ambulances and other vital services.

Emergency powers

The Scottish Ambulance Service has drawn up contingency plans and is considering a ban on non-emergency services.

However, director of operations Phil Spence stressed that there was no question of 999 calls being affected.

The ambulance service in Aberdeen had earlier been forced to scramble a helicopter to lift two accident victims to hospital as a fuel protest caused delays for thousands of commuters on the area's roads.

Protesters have vowed to continue their action
The city was brought to a virtual standstill, with all five main road routes into the city blocked by slow-moving tractors and lorries.

Organisers warned that they plan action on the same scale in the build-up to Wednesday morning's rush hour.

About 300 lorry drivers and farmers also gathered at Ingliston, to the west of Edinburgh, pledging to continue their demonstrations until the chancellor changes his mind.

The convoy had earlier brought traffic to a standstill in the capital by travelling through the city centre in a demonstration organised by road hauliers - a day after unofficial action caused widespread disruption.

Perth became the latest target for the protests when 130 truckers, taxi drivers and farmers blockaded the city for two hours in a slow moving convoy.

Action is now planned in Inverness on Wednesday, with the north of Scotland's main fuel distribution depot expected to be a target.

Plans to extend the demonstrations to Dundee later in the week have also been announced.

It has also emerged that Glasgow and Edinburgh airports are now down to one day's supply of aviation fuel.

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See also:

12 Sep 00 | Business
Brown defends fuel policy
12 Sep 00 | Scotland
Scotland's fuel hotspots
11 Sep 00 | Scotland
Panic buying hits Scots garages
10 Sep 00 | Business
Opec pressured over oil prices
09 Sep 00 | Europe
France emerges from fuel crisis
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