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Byline: Pippa Crerar

DOZY guards at the Grangemouth oil refinery took an incredible 10 hours to stumble across a frightening security breach.

Round-the-clock security procedures at the key target for terrorists are constantly monitored by the intelligence agencies, due to its devastating explosive potential.

MI5 regularly conduct checks and risk assessment exercises and security patrols drive around the perimeter of the massive petrochemical site.

But they failed to spot where raiders cut the wire fence and removed two bollards before driving in a van and stealing pounds 20,000 worth of steel pipes.

Before their getaway, they hooked up the 6ft fence to cover their tracks.

The crude attempt to hide the break-in worked until the wind blew it down and security guards could not fail to miss it.

Only then did they discover the break-in, 10 hours later at midday.

A terrorist attack on Grangemouth would be catastrophic for Scotland's economy, environment and its people.

Devastation The plant contains highly flammable gas and petrochemicals and an explosion would have caused devastation for many miles around.

More than 3000 people work at the site for firms including BP, chemical specialist Avecia, biotech firm Syngenta and GE Plastics.

A further 40,000 people live within three miles, in Grangemouth and Bo'ness.

Smoke from a serious incident at the Stirlingshire complex would have caused a major environmental disaster.

And Scotland would suffer a major fuel crisis as petrol pumps dried up and factories ground to a halt.

Last night, local MP Michael Connarty blasted security at the BP site and warned that the plant had become a soft target for terrorists.

He said: 'When I found out what had happened it sent a shiver downmy spine.

'BP is clearly a very attractive target for people who will want to make a major statement in the war on terror.

'Therefore we should have the highest level of security possible for the site.'

MI5 advise BP at a local and national level on their security strategy.

The ease with which thieves were able to get into the plant and the length of time it took security to discover the raid has rattled police.

The company have launched a full-scale probe and mounted an urgent review of security.

Details of the security breach, in the early hours of Friday May 7, only emerged yesterday.

The Record can reveal that raiders pulled off the busy main Bo'ness road that passes the Kinneil oil and gas processing section of the site.

They cut through a section of the 23-mile long fence and simply drove in.

It was an astonishing 10 hours before the break-in was rumbled. There was a further security scare the following day when a mystery bag was found close to the entry point. Staff reported the suspicious package to police, fearing it could have contained a bomb planted during the break-in.

A controlled explosion could not take place because of the fire risk. So staff had to wait for special X-Ray equipment to be brought in. The bag contained worker's tools.

Connarty, Labour MP for Falkirk East, said: 'This breach at a very volatile industrial plant shows that security is not at the level it should be given the situation world-wide.

'When I found out what had happened, it sent a shiver down my spine because I've become more and more aware that we are living in a different world these days.'

Police,who have a dedicated officer to deal with the terrorist threat at Grangemouth and keep security under review, are concerned at the breach.

Divisional commander Superintendent Neil MacDonald said: 'This was a criminal and a security matter the two go hand in hand. We live in a different world now.'

A spokesman for BP said: 'We have taken this whole incident very seriously.

'We carried out a full search of the site and then set up an investigation team to look at all aspects of this since and also to do a fresh review of security arrangements for the entire complex.'


SECURITY SCARE: Part of the perimeter fence the thieves broke down during their raid at the giant petrochemical plant in Grangemouth. It took security workers 10 hours to discover the break-in; ANGRY: Connarty; ALERT: A full probe has been launched over security at the massive petrochemical complex
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 21, 2004
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