Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 17:49 UK

Industry plea to prevent strike

Oil tanker at Grangemouth refinery
BP said its Forties pipeline would be closed by Sunday morning

The oil and gas industry has urged the government to intervene in the industrial dispute at Grangemouth, Scotland's only refinery.

Oil and Gas UK said it was time for ministers to act to avoid further disruption to production.

About 1,200 Grangemouth workers are due to walk out at 0600 BST on Sunday in a row over pensions.

John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, said he had spoken to both plant bosses and union officials.

He insisted that it was important to avoid unnecessary damage to the wider oil and gas economy in Scotland.

Mr Hutton added: "It is wrong to cause this much disruption to the Scottish people and the Scottish economy.

"It is in no-one's interest to affect North Sea oil production."

Oil giant BP said Sunday and Monday's strike action was forcing it to turn off its Forties pipeline, which delivers 30% of the UK's daily oil.

We are clearly aware of increased activity at the pumps - but there remains no need for people to change their normal pattern of fuel buying
Jim Mather
Scottish tourism minister

The pipeline brings in 700,000 barrels of oil and 80 million cubic metres of gas a day from the North Sea to BP's Kinneil plant, which is powered from the Grangemouth site.

Oil and Gas UK chief executive, Malcolm Webb, said: "This is now affecting some 80 companies and their operations which are in no way connected to or involved in this dispute.

"It is now time for the UK Government at the highest level to step in and take all the necessary actions to ensure that the country is not held to ransom in this manner."

Oil and Gas UK said the pipeline closure would cost the UK economy 50m a day in lost production - with the Treasury taking half that hit.

The impending strike was also having an impact on the availability of petrol and diesel in Scotland.

There were no shortages, industry bosses said, but drivers filling up their tanks unnecessarily caused some petrol station pumps to run dry.

Production ceased

However, the Scottish Government urged members of the public to think carefully about their car use over the weekend.

Tourism Minister Jim Mather encouraged people to go for a walk rather than a Sunday drive and use public transport.

He said: "The Scottish Government's message is clear - enjoy the weekend, enjoy our world class scenery, but in the current situation, behave responsibly, reducing avoidable journeys, and using public transport when possible.

"We are clearly aware of increased activity at the pumps - but there remains no need for people to change their normal pattern of fuel buying."

Production at Grangemouth ceased on Friday, ahead of the 48-hour strike action.

The Forties line will be completely shut down by 0600 BST on Sunday.


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