THE Scottish government has called on UK ministers to hold an ‘immediate discussion’ on worker shortages as long lines formed at petrol stations yesterday.
Scottish External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson has written Home Secretary Priti Patel to demand urgent action on post-Brexit immigration rules.
Drivers across the UK have faced long lines at petrol stations, after a shortage of truck drivers forced some fuel retailers to shut down their pumps and ration sales.
Motorists have ignored pleas for calm from UK ministers, AA President Edmund King, saying the shortage problems have been exacerbated by “people going out and refueling when they really don’t need it.”
Some petrol stations in Scotland have introduced a limit of Â£ 30 per vehicle for filling in light of ‘unprecedented demand’.
READ MORE: ‘Completely humiliating’: Nicola Sturgeon slams Boris Johnson after Brexit U-turn
It comes after growing concerns about the impact of the lack of truck drivers on supermarket supply, fears Christmas shopping could be hampered without action.
Downing Street is expected to announce today a temporary lifting of visa restrictions for foreign drivers as a “short-term solution” to ease pressure on deliveries in the run-up to Christmas.
It was reported that up to 5,000 temporary visas could be granted to heavy truck drivers while a similar number would be approved for workers in food processing, especially in the poultry industry.
The Confederation of British Industry said there was “enormous relief” to the plan, but had called for such action for three months.
Managing Director Tony Danker said: “We could see this problem coming and other problems coming, so it’s a shame the government needed queues at the pumps to move, but I hope so, and that will help. ”
SNP immigration spokeswoman Anne McLaughlin MP (above) described it as a ‘humiliating Brexit U-turn’ for Boris Johnson.
She said: âThe trucking experts have said over and over again that we are short of 100,000 heavy truck drivers, but the Conservatives believe 5,000 temporary visas will solve the problem. This will not be the case.
âAnd it does absolutely nothing to address the multiple labor shortages causing severe damage to other sectors like Scotland’s vital food and drink industry.
âThe Prime Minister and Conservative top ministers have been repeatedly warned of the dire consequences of their extreme Brexit plans, including the threat of staff shortages, but they have continued recklessly nonetheless.
“And again, ordinary people across Britain are paying the price.”
In his letter, Robertson told the Home Secretary that the UK government “urgently needs to tackle the challenges of immigration”.
He said: âThe current immigration system does not meet the needs of Scotland. At the moment, it does not meet the needs of sectors across the UK. ”
Adding that “this position is not sustainable”, he urged Patel to work with the Scottish government to “urgently develop and implement the change”.
Robertson wants Westminster to immediately introduce a 24-month temporary worker visa and review of the shortage occupations list, with Scottish ministers given a formal role in determining which categories of workers are on that list.
He also wants changes to the structure of immigration fees, saying the ‘excessive’ costs involved – up to Â£ 1,220 – were a barrier for both workers and employers.