British motorists were warned Saturday not to panic buy at the pumps on the eve of a planned strike at one of the country's biggest oil refineries, in Scotland.
A major North Sea oil line is expected to be shut down Saturday ahead of the two-day industrial action at Grangemouth refinery, near Edinburgh.
Some 1,200 workers at the plant that supplies Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England, are expected to walk out Sunday because of disagreements with owners Ineos over pensions.
Production at the refinery ended Friday ahead of the strike action, and it is expected to take several days before it will be running again at full capacity.
The government has appealed to drivers to stay calm, but gas stations have already reported shortages in Scotland and fears are growing that this could spread south.
Business Secretary John Hutton admitted Saturday a national emergency plan, drawn up after the blockades of the 2000 petrol crisis, could be put in to action, but only if fuel supplies dipped dramatically in the coming week.
He advised drivers to continue to buy ‘sensibly’ to avert the threat of shortages.
“There is plenty of petrol and diesel in Scotland to meet demand during this period of time," he said on BBC radio. "But of course there is going to be a challenge if people change the way that they consume fuel."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said there was no need for the strike and called on the two sides to talk, but Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, said he was “certain” the strike would go ahead.