Scotland’s first cannabis-based medicine approved for NHS

Treatment can be used for rare types of childhood epilepsy.

A cannabis-based medicine has been approved for use on the NHS in Scotland for the first time, giving hope in the treatment of rare types of childhood epilepsy.

Cannabidiol (Epidyolex) has been accepted for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a condition which can cause frequent debilitating seizures, by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

It has also been allowed to treat Dravet syndrome, another rare type of epilepsy, which again is characterised by severe seizures of various types.

Patients can have learning disabilities, sleep problems and usually required 24-hour care and are fully dependent through their lives.

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However, Cannabidiol in combination with clobazam can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures for some patients, enabling them to have a better quality of life.

The decision means patients aged two and over can access the medicine via the NHS if their doctor recommends it.

It marks the first time that a plant-derived cannabis-based medicine has been given the go ahead in Scotland for use on the health service.

Mark MacGregor, SMC chairman, said: “We know from the powerful testimony given by patients and clinicians in our PACE meetings that our decisions on cannabidiol for both Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome will be welcomed, and hopefully provide some relief for patients and their families.”

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The approval, which was confirmed on Monday, means Scottish families living with the rare types of epilepsy will have the opportunity to try a new therapeutic option.

Galia Wilson, chair and trustee of Dravet Syndrome UK, said: “The constant worry of potentially fatal seizures is both terrifying and exhausting for parents/carers – their children need 24/7 monitoring.

“Even small improvements in seizure control can mean significant benefits in quality of life, both for patients and their families.

“We’re thrilled that SMC has recognised this and welcome their approach to giving patient groups a stronger voice in decision-making, especially around rare conditions such as Dravet Syndrome.”

Health secretary Jeane Freeman added: “We welcome the decision to approve Epidyolex for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare type of epilepsy that presents in early childhood, and the additional support this will give families living with children suffering from this condition.

“Together with the approval of Epidyolex in combination with clobazam – which was also accepted for the treatment of Dravet syndrome – these medicines will improve the quality of life for patients and their families.”


Businesses given ‘grace period’ to implement Covid passport scheme

Nicola Sturgeon said firms will have time to operationalise and test the arrangements they put in place.

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A ‘grace period’ will be given to businesses in Scotland to allow them to prepare for the implementation of Covid passports, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

The First Minister explained that although the legal obligation for the scheme will come into effect from 5am on Friday, it will not be until October 18 that any business could face enforcement action for non-compliance.

Speaking at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Sturgeon said that the two-week period will allow firms to “test, adapt and build confidence” in the practical arrangements they will need to put in place for the scheme.

It comes after nightclub bosses last week launched a legal challenge over the vaccine passport scheme.

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The First Minister also confirmed that capacity limits, in place for stadia and live events, will be lifted.

“We have continued to engage with businesses as we have developed the detail of the certification scheme,” Sturgeon told MSPs.

“I understand that many businesses have concerns about certification – however, I am grateful to all those that have nevertheless engaged in these discussions so constructively.

“The Government remains of the view that a targeted certification scheme does have a part to play in
driving vaccination rates up as high as possible, and providing an additional layer of protection over the
winter months as we seek to achieve the potentially difficult task of keeping Covid under control while
keeping our economy fully open.”

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“Indeed, many other countries are already demonstrating the value of Covid certification.

“It is for these reasons that Cabinet decided this morning to proceed with the laying of the regulations
that will bring such a scheme into operation.

“However, we are also determined to listen and, as far as possible, respond to the reasonable concerns
of business, so that the introduction and practical implementation of the scheme is as smooth as
possible.”

Sturgeon said businesses will be able to operationalise and test the arrangements they put in place.

“I can confirm therefore that Cabinet this morning agreed a change to our original plans for the scheme’s
commencement,” she told Holyrood.

“The new, staged approach we are proposing now is designed to help businesses adapt to the requirement
that the scheme will place upon them, and give them a period in which they can operationalise and test
their arrangements in practice.”

She continued: “I can therefore confirm that after the legal obligation comes into force at 5am on Friday this week, we intend to allow a further period of slightly more than two weeks – until October 18 – before any business could
face enforcement action for non-compliance.

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“This period – effectively a grace period – will allow businesses to test, adapt and build confidence in the practical arrangements they will need to put in place to be compliant with the scheme.”

The First Minister added: “The pragmatic compromise that I have just outlined in relation to a staged introduction of the scheme demonstrates, I hope, that we are listening to business about the practical challenges they face and that we are determined to work with them to overcome these.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross hit out at the SNP over the scheme. (Scottish Parliament TV)

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross urged Sturgeon to admit it is a “botched scheme”.

He told the First Minister: “Warning after warning from businesses for weeks were ignored by this government and only now does Nicola Sturgeon finally admit that this is a botched scheme.

“In a little over 48-hours time, it will come into force, yet the Government is still publishing vital new information and guidance about how to administer the scheme.”

He continued: “It’s more of the same last-minute, rushed, chaotic planning we’ve seen time and time again from this SNP government.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Can I plead with (Sturgeon) again to please consider the role of testing, as making sure someone is negative going into a venue is still more important than if they are vaccinated.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, urged the First Minister to abandon the scheme.

He told MSPs: “The 18-day delay in enforcement is an admission that the Government and businesses are nowhere near ready and we have evidence that shows that the passports don’t even work.”

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Two teens arrested and charged over attempted murder

The incident took place on Saturday in Barlanark, Glasgow.

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The man was taken to hospital where his condition is described as serious but stable.

Two teenagers have been arrested and charged in connection with the attempted murder of a man in Glasgow.

One of the teens, aged 16, appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday, whilst the other, 17, is expected to appear in court on Wednesday.

It comes after the attempted murder of a 33-year-old man in Barlanark on Saturday.

The man was taken to hospital after officers responded to a report of an injured man on Garlieston Road at around 9.25pm.

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He was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where hospital staff describe his condition as serious but stable.

A full report will be forwarded to the Procurator Fiscal.


Man accused of murdering woman and toddler as well as raping girl

Andrew Innes allegedly killed Bennylyn Burke, 25, and her child, Jellica Burke, at a house in Troon Avenue, Dundee.

Police Scotland
Court: Andrew Innes, 51, has been accused of murdering Bennylyn and Jellica Burke.

A man has been accused of murdering a mother and her two-year-old daughter.

Andrew Innes allegedly killed Bennylyn Burke, 25, and her child, Jellica Burke, at a house in Troon Avenue, Dundee.

Prosecutors claim the 51-year-old then hid the bodies under the kitchen floor of the property with a further accusation that he also raped a seven-year-old girl.

Innes faced the charges as he appeared via video-link at the High Court in Glasgow on Tuesday.

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The alleged murders are said to have occurred between February 20 and March 5 this year.

It is claimed Innes stabbed Ms Burke on the body with a knife as well as repeatedly striking her on the head with a hammer and the handle of the blade.

The indictment alleges Innes murdered her two-year-old daughter Jellica and that he did “asphyxiate her by means unknown”.

Innes then faces a charge of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

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This includes a claim that he did wrap the body of Ms Burke in a rubble bag, blanket and tarpaulin and then concealed the corpse in concrete under the kitchen floor at the Troon Avenue property.

Jellica’s naked body is also said to have been hidden there.

The charge also features a claim that Innes told police investigating Ms Burke’s whereabouts that he had driven her, Jellica and another child to the Old Inns Cafe in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, on February 28.

He is said to have told the officers he left them with an “unknown male” and that he had no contact with them afterwards.

Innes also allegedly pretended to a young girl that Ms Burke was in hospital and Jellica was in Bristol.

Innes is separately accused of assaulting, raping and attempting to rape that same child as well detaining her against her will at the house in Dundee.

This is also said to have happened between the same dates of the alleged murders.

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No plea was entered at the hearing on Tuesday.

Innes had no lawyer acting for him in court. The nature of the charges means he must get legal representation for any possible trial.

Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC told the court: “I understand that he has made an application for legal aid and that was refused.

“He has instructed an Edinburgh solicitor (Stephen Knowles) on a very limited mandate.

“I have been in touch with the solicitor in person today and he has knowledge of the case.

“My understanding is [Innes] does not intend to instruct legal representation for further hearings.

“The Crown then moves that Mr Knowles is appointed by the court.”

Lord Armstrong confirmed with Innes what was stated by Mr Prentice was right.

The judge went on: “Given the nature of the case, I am going to formally appoint a solicitor. You have no difficulty with that?”

Innes replied: “That is correct.”

The case was adjourned until a further hearing in December.

Homes evacuated after bomb squad cordon off tenement block

Police were called to Edinburgh's Comely Bank Street at around 2.35pm on Tuesday.

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Officers put up a cordon and those living in neighbouring properties were evacuated.

A tenement block has been evacuated after reports of an explosive being found in an Edinburgh property.

Police were called to Comely Bank Street at around 2.35pm on Tuesday.

Officers put up a cordon and those living in neighbouring properties were evacuated.

Police Scotland said the evacuations were a precaution and that there was no risk to the wider public.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 2.35pm on Tuesday, September 28, we received a report of possible ordinance found with in a property on Comely Bank Street in Edinburgh.

“A cordon has been put in place by officers and several neighbour properties evacuated as a precaution. Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) are currently on scene.

“There is no risk to the wider public.”


Glasgow bin lorry disaster case opens as council sues First Bus

Glasgow City Council is suing First Bus, the former employers of the bin lorry driver Harry Clarke.

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Bin lorry disaster: Glasgow's George Square in 2014.

A hearing has begun into the Glasgow bin lorry disaster which claimed the lives of six people.

Glasgow City Council is suing First Bus, the former employers of the bin lorry driver Harry Clarke, over the job reference the firm provided.

Mr Clarke collapsed while at the wheel of a bin lorry in the city centre in December 2014.

The vehicle hit pedestrians, killing six people and injuring more than a dozen others.

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At a Court of Session hearing in Edinburgh on Tuesday, Roddy Dunlop QC, representing First Bus, and Andrew Smith QC, representing the local authority, took witness statements from medical professionals linked to Mr Clarke and his former employers.

The hearing heard Mr Clarke’s GP, Dr Gerard McKaig, confirm that he had been misled on Mr Clarke’s medical history prior to the crash.

Mr Clarke told his GP that he fainted in a warm canteen building in April 2010, but it later transpired that he had lost consciousness behind the wheel of a stationary bus, the case heard.

In a witness statement, Dr McKaig said had he known about Mr Clarke fainting behind the wheel of a bus, he would have “warranted a much fuller investigation” into his health at the time.

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Witness statements were also given by the former clinical lead for Bupa’s occupational health services in Scotland, Dr Peter Warnock.

Dr Warnock told the hearing had he been made aware of Mr Clarke’s loss of consciousness behind the wheel in 2010, he would have deemed him “unfit for work” until a health investigation was carried out to the DVLA’s satisfaction.

The hearing continues into Monday afternoon.

A 2015 inquiry into the incident heard the tragedy took just 19 seconds to unfold.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton; Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow; and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, died in the crash.

A further 15 people were injured when the Glasgow City Council truck veered out of control.

It travelled along the pavement in Queen Street before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel in George Square.


Tributes to climber who died after fall on Isle of Skye

Mike Campbell, 63, died after he plunged 80 metres while climbing down Blaven.

SWNS
Conditions on the hillside deteriorated significantly on Sunday.

A dad-of-two who tragically fell to his death on a climbing expedition has been described as a caring man and passionate lover of the great outdoors by one of his best friends.

Mike Campbell, 63, died after he plunged 80 metres while climbing down Blaven on the Isle of Skye on Sunday, September 26.

Three of his party were saved by a helicopter dispatched from Inverness at around 1.30pm after conditions on the hillside deteriorated significantly, according to a Facebook post by Ben Wear of the Skye Mountain Rescue Team.

Adverse weather meant that further air rescues were impossible and a search party set out on foot.

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Mike’s body was found at around 5pm and his companion, Kirsty McLelland, was helped to safety.

In total, 32 rescuers were involved in the search for the missing climbers.

Mark Dootson, chair of the Kilmarnock Mountaineering Club of which Mike was a member, remembered his friend as a “very caring” man.

Mike worked for Thales, an aerospace and defence firm based in Glasgow, and stayed locally for many years before moving to Dunoon, Argyll and Bute, only a few months ago, where he was in the process of renovating a bungalow.

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Mark said: “When we had novices with us he was always very caring towards them. I don’t really know any other way to explain him.

“He took me under his wing after he completed the Munros and we were concentrating on getting mine.”

The two joined the Ayrshire outdoors club around 10 years ago and became fast friends.

“We got to know each other through the club and our hillwalking and climbing,” Mark continued.

“Both of us would go to gigs regularly, any Scottish indie or folky stuff that was playing in Glasgow.

“Only last week we were at a gig in St Luke’s and we would always go to Celtic Connections.”

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Around 1.20 pm on Sunday, September 26, 2021, a concern for a person call was made to police after a 63-year-old man had fallen on Blaven, Isle of Skye, and could not be traced by his companion.

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“Skye Mountain Rescue attended and the man was found to be deceased and his body recovered from the mountain.

“There would appear to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death and a report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

By Hamish Morrison and Caitlyn Dewar, SWNS


Scottish Parliament calls for Universal Credit cut to be scrapped

MSPs backed a motion calling for the UK Government to abandon plans to end the £20 benefit uplift.

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Only the Scottish Conservatives opposed the call.

A plan to cut £20 per week from Universal Credit should be scrapped, Holyrood has declared.

MSPs have voted to call for the UK Government to maintain the benefit uplift introduced towards the start of the coronavirus pandemic rather than end it as planned on October 6.

Social justice secretary Shona Robison said the end of the £20 uplift would be “senseless and harmful” and said thousands of families will face the “terrible decision” of choosing to heat their homes or feeding themselves.

Only the Scottish Conservatives opposed the call and instead wanted the Parliament to pass a motion stating that it was the “right time for the uplift to be reviewed” given that the majority of coronavirus restrictions had been eased.

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Opening the debate, Robison said: “This cut is not inevitable, nor is it something that is happening because it is expected to improve the lives of those affected – we know it isn’t going to.

“This is a conscious decision to remove support from people who rely upon this uplift as a lifeline to allow basic needs to be met and to live with a modicum of dignity.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Alexander Stewart claimed that Universal Credit had “helped employment rise to record levels in the months leading up to the pandemic”.

He added: “I was pleased to see the six-month extension to the uplift confirmed in the March budget following calls from members in these benches, but it would be remiss of me not to mention the continuing uplift and the cost.

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“Those on the opposite benches tell us that they believe the problem of funding is a non-issue. Well, I’m sorry, it’s not a non-issue.

“But less than a week ago, in this chamber, we saw the SNP social security minister stand in the chamber and refuse to say whether he would permanently double the carers allowance supplement. And the reason for that was budget considerations.”

Ahead of the debate, Scottish Labour’s social security spokeswoman Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “The uplift was a response to a failing social security system, gutted by the Conservative Government.

“This money went on basics like food, bills and travelling to work or school. For millions of people struggling to make ends meet, slashing that money now will be an assault on their basic human rights.

“This cut will do untold damage to communities and all those opposed must stand together to fight it – but we need deeds as well as words from the Scottish Government.

“Poverty has been climbing under the Tories and the SNP. If they don’t act to reverse this, they will fail future generations and undo all the progress made under the previous Labour Governments.

“The SNP and the Conservative Governments must use all the powers at their disposal to take bold transformative action to tackle poverty and inequality right now.”

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Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said: “The Conservatives seem to be concerned about the cost of this £20 cut to the overall exchequer, but they’ve also said that work is the best route out of poverty.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary.

“It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.

“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the Government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.

“The Scottish Parliament has significant welfare powers and can top up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility.”


Hundreds of new claimants join legal action against Clydesdale bank

Another 266 small firms have signed up to the long-running legal claim against the Clydesdale and Yorkshire bank.

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Clydesdale: Hundreds of new claimants join legal action.

More than 800 small businesses have now joined forces in a long-running legal fight against Clydesdale and Yorkshire bank after hundreds of new claimants have joined the claim.

Claims firm RGL Management, which is managing the legal action, said it has added another 436 claims on behalf of 266 small firms against Clydesdale, which is now part of Virgin Money, and its former owner, National Australia Bank (NAB).

The latest tranche – the biggest yet in the action so far – takes the total number of claims to 1345, representing 823 small businesses, according to RGL.

The case, which has been running since 2017, relates to fixed-rate tailored business loans that Clydesdale and Yorkshire offered to small businesses between 2001 and 2012.

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RGL alleges small firms were unfairly charged high break fees when they sought to end the loans early, while it also alleges the lender “deliberately and systematically” overpriced the interest rates on the loans without first informing customers.

It said the claims are expected to amount to hundreds of millions of pounds.

RGL said it believes about 6500 small firms were sold the loans, which could still see thousands more join the action.

James Hayward, chief executive of RGL Management, said: “With this significant new wave of claims, the largest to date, we remain supremely confident in the strength of our case.

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“There is irrefutable evidence which proves the bank’s unlawful treatment of its fixed rate loan customers and we are well on the way to securing them the compensation they deserve, which is in the hundreds of millions of pounds.”

Clydesdale and Yorkshire bank group CYBG was formed in 2016 after NAB divested its UK operations and was then renamed Virgin Money after a £1.6bn takeover of Sir Richard Branson’s banking group.

A spokesman for Virgin Money said: “There is absolutely no merit in the allegations made in RGL’s claims, which involve four live claimants.

“Their case is weak and we remain confident of defending our position.”


Boris Johnson says crisis on petrol forecourts is ‘stabilising’

The Prime Minister said he sympathises with those who have been worried about their journeys.

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He said the indications from the industry are that the situation is beginning to improve with supplies returning to normal levels.

Boris Johnson has said the situation on the filling station forecourts is “stabilising” as he urged motorists to go about their business in the normal way.

Following days of chaos, with long queues for petrol and stations running dry, the Prime Minister said he understood the frustration felt by drivers as they struggled to fill up.

However he said that the indications from the industry were that the situation was beginning to improve with supplies returning to normal levels.

“On the forecourts the situation is stabilising and people should be confident and just go about their business in the normal way,” he said in a pooled interview with broadcasters.

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His appeal came as Sir Keir Starmer accused the UK Government of reducing the country to “chaos” through its failure to deal with the fuel crisis.

The Labour leader said the haulage industry was “beyond frustrated” at the lack of a clear plan by ministers to alleviate the problems caused by the shortage of tanker drivers.

“The Government has reduced the country to chaos as we track from crisis to crisis. The Government is not gripping this,” he told BBC News.

“This problem was predictable and predicted and the Government has absolutely failed to plan.”

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But with the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) reporting “early signs” that the crisis was coming to an end, the Prime Minister expressed confidence the worst was over.

Johnson said the Government was putting in place measures to ensure the entire supply chain could cope in the run-up to Christmas.

“I want to say first of all how much I sympathise with people who have been worried about their journeys, worried about whether they will be able to use their cars in the normal way,” he said.

“I know how frustrating and worrying it must have been to worry about a shortage of petrol and fuel.

“We are now starting to see the situation improve. We are hearing from industry that supplies are coming back on to the forecourts in the normal way.

“What we want to do is to make sure we have the preparations necessary to get through to Christmas and beyond, not just in the supply of our petrol stations but all parts of our supply chain.”

Johnson rejected calls for healthcare staff and other workers to be given priority access to fuel, suggesting it was unnecessary given the easing of the situation.

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After the Government announced it would be issuing 5000 temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers to alleviate the shortages which led to the crisis, he also dismissed demands for more overseas workers to be admitted.

“What we want to see is a an emphasis on a high wage, high skill, high productivity approach to our economy,” he said.

“What I don’t think people in this country want to do is fix all our problems with uncontrolled immigration.

“We tried that for a long time and in the end, people could see that it was leading to a low wage, low skill approach without enough investment in people or in equipment.

“That’s not the way we want the UK to develop and grow.”

His comments came after UK transport secretary Grant Shapps acknowledged that Brexit, which cut off the supply of drivers from the EU, had been a “factor” in the crisis.

“No doubt it will have been a factor. On the other hand it has actually helped us to change rules to be able to test more drivers more quickly,” he told broadcasters.

“So, it has actually worked in both ways.”

Meanwhile PRA executive director Gordon Balmer said the numbers of filling stations reporting they had run dry was falling as fuel deliveries recovered.

“There are early signs that the crisis at pumps is ending, with more of our members reporting that they are now taking further deliveries of fuel,” he said.

“We have conducted a survey of our members this morning and only 37% of forecourts have reported being out of fuel today.

“With regular restocks taking place, this percentage is likely to improve further over the next 24 hours.”

Ministers have insisted throughout the crisis that fuel stocks remain high and that panic buying was unnecessary.

They argued the sudden surge in demand was driven by reports of of a shortage of a small number of tanker drivers leading to some hold-up in deliveries.

Nevertheless the Government announced on Monday that it was putting troops on standby to drive tankers as a “precautionary step” if problems persisted.

But with long queues for petrol continuing some senior Tories urged ministers to go further and begin actively deploying the military to restore public confidence.


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