If Keith Brown, the new Transport Minister for Scotland, thinks it is ‘unreasonable’ for large retailers to withdraw their home delivery services, then he has failed to appreciate the scale of the problem caused by a Scottish transport network woefully under-prepared for extreme winter weather. So says the Freight Transport Association (FTA), which estimated the cost of a single HGV stranded in the snow at around £400 a day.
Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Policy for Scotland, said:
"It is very disappointing that Mr Brown’s opening gambit as Scotland’s Transport Minister is to criticise those companies which have made the difficult decision to suspend their home deliveries due to severe weather. The decision to suspend services, especially in the run-up to Christmas, is not one which is taken lightly, but road safety has to be the number one priority.
"If our roads are not fit-for-purpose and businesses are not adequately warned about bad weather, then it is rather cynical to tell industry that what they are doing is inadequate. It seems the Scottish Government is trying to place the ball in the court of the retailers, but they are doing all they can to not only deliver Christmas but to clear the huge backlog of goods that have accrued at their distribution centres."
FTA – which called for and secured from the Department for Transport the initial relaxation of drivers’ hours rules last week, to help truckers remain legal in the face of horrendously protracted journeys – has been working with Scottish government to give an accurate picture of the severe weather crisis that brought much of Scotland to a standstill. Before former Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson’s resignation at the weekend, FTA had raised with policy makers that its members had seen little evidence of gritting on key motorways across the central belt of Scotland.
"If Mr Brown’s focus is indeed on keeping Scotland moving, as he claims, then he needs to regain its trust and develop practicable solutions. Shifting the responsibility onto the undeniably ‘can do’ logistics sector is unfair and, frankly, unhelpful."