By GRAHAM SMITH
Morning after: Cars abandoned along the A80 near Crowwood, North Lanarkshire. Thousands of motorists were stranded in their cars last night after snow and freezing temperatures brought Scotland to a standstill
Scotland is in the grip of the 'worst snow and ice conditions since the 1960s'
Transport Minister blames weather advice for 'not meeting requirements'
Snow forces 100 children to spend the night in their school
At least 13 people have now died across Britain in weather-related incidents
Thousands of desperate motorists were left stranded in their cars last night after heavy snow and freezing temperatures brought much of Scotland to a standstill.
Some travellers were stuck in their vehicles for more than 15 hours as Scotland bore the brunt of a fresh wave of ice and snow which left several major routes - including the M8 motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh - impassable.
The AA said yesterday was one of the busiest days in its history with around 24,000 breakdowns attended - up from 10,500 on a normal Monday.
Scotland's Transport Minister today claimed conceded that the weather advice the authorities had been working on yesterday 'did not meet the requirements'.
Braving the elements: Armed with shovels, motorists return to dig out their abandoned vehicles this morning
Stewart Stevenson apologised to those affected and warned it may take some time before the roads were 'back to anything approaching normal'.
The appalling conditions forced around 100 children to spend the night at their South Lanarkshire school.
The pupils were unable to leave Hamilton Academy yesterday afternoon so ended up bedding down for the night.
Classrooms were turned into makeshift dormitories after congested roads and hazardous weather brought the region to a standstill.
Parents had battled through the snow to bring their children home, but also decided to spend the night with them and wait for the morning light before venturing outside again.
Deluge: A car lies buried in snow on a freezing Edinburgh street today
Paving the way: Council workers begin clearing snow on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh this morning
School principal Margaret Clarke said between 90 and 100 children slept at the school, and were remaining 'positive'.
Speaking in the early hours of this morning, she said: 'The children have bedded down in different classrooms.
'Some parents are managing to arrive now, but after seven or eight-hour journeys. Many saw their children were happy and safe, and decided to join them and face the return journey today.'
Police across the country's busy central belt warned people not to travel today unless it was 'absolutely essential' after temperatures plunged as low as minus 17C (1.4F) and hampered gritting efforts.
The deluge yesterday - which appeared to take the authorities by surprise - saw people sleep in their cars or abandon them on the highway as motorways and A roads clogged up.
This morning, Strathclyde Police reported that the snow and ice on some roads was breaking the blades on snow ploughs.
Sleepover: Around 100 children were forced to spend the night at Hamilton College in South Lanarkshire after fresh snow and ice brought more havoc to the UK
Making do: Classrooms were turned into makeshift dormitories after congested roads and hazardous weather brought South Lanarkshire to a standstill
Mr Stevenson told BBC Radio Scotland that the authorities had been caught out by the severity of the weather yesterday.
Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: 'We prepared for one set of weather yesterday morning - we had weather greater than we were ready for.
'Today we're now facing temperatures so low that salt is no longer working on the network.
'We've actually seen snow ploughs damaged by the solidity of the ice on the M8.'
Mr Stevenson added: 'We will continue to make very substantial efforts indeed, but I'm sorry it will take some time before we're back to anything approaching normal.'
He also said the authorities would 'have to look at the advice we had', adding that the weather forecast they were given 'appears to have been different' from that of some other forecasters.
The minister said: 'I want to know why that's the case because we can't have that happening again. That's a clear part of what we've got to look at to make sure that we improve.'
He described Scotland as being in the midst of the 'worst snow and ice conditions since the 1960s'.
But Scottish Labour's transport spokesman Charlie Gordon said 'serious questions' needed to be answered about the response from the authorities.
He said: 'We have just experienced the worst gridlock in living memory and hundreds of drivers spent the night stranded in their cars.
'It is not good enough for the SNP Government to blame the weather forecast when heavy snow and ice was predicted by the BBC on Sunday night.
'Much clearer warnings should have been given telling people not to travel.'
North-east Scotland and north-west England have been warned about fresh snow today, with widespread icy roads expected up and down the country after temperatures plunged as low as -15C.
But there looked to be some brief respite from the freezing conditions later this week - with many places expected to have their first frost-free night for more than two weeks on Thursday.
At least nine people have so far died in the big freeze, with an elderly man found dead in snow at a Lincolnshire caravan park the latest victim.
Gridlock: Drivers stuck on the M8 at Junction 2 near Livingston in West Lothian last night
Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports were open today after closing for a time yesterday due to the weather conditions, but officials warned travellers to check with their airlines.
Belfast International and London City airports also warned of delays and cancellations due to fog and freezing weather.
On the railways, the East Coast rail line between London and Edinburgh was still running a reduced service, and some Northern Rail services in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire were cancelled.
Brendan Jones, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said temperatures were due to rise from Thursday through the weekend thanks to a shift in the wind direction.
He said: 'We are expecting things to become less cold by Thursday.
'At the moment, temperatures are struggling to get above freezing, but by Thursday most places are going to be above zero - 4C or 5C across large parts of the country.
'Many places will have a frost-free night.'
A change in the wind from easterly to north westerly will bring the milder conditions, but Mr Jones warned the weather looked set to get colder again into next week.
'The charts are showing an east or north east set-up, with potential snow showers in eastern areas next week,' he said.
The latest victim of the big freeze, believed to have been in his 70s, was found by security guards patrolling the Thorpe Park site in Cleethorpes, north-east Lincolnshire, on Saturday.
The pensioner's body was found outside in freezing conditions and was fully clothed.
Eight other deaths have included a 64-year-old man who died while trying to clear snow in Darlington, County Durham.
Two men also died in a motorway crash on the M62 in Humberside, and two teenage girls were killed when their Peugeot 206 collided with a Royal Mail box van in Cumbria.
Earlier in the week two Cumbrian pensioners in Kirkby Stephen and Workington died after falling in their gardens where they spent hours lying in sub-zero temperatures until they were found.
And a good Samaritan who stopped his car to help a stranded motorist in the Yorkshire Dales was killed when he was struck by another vehicle.
The AA warned of continuing treacherous road conditions as the bleak weather went on.
M8 Glasgow - Edinburgh
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Big freeze forces thousands of motorists to abandon their cars as AA struggles with 24,000 breakdowns in ONE DAY
By GRAHAM SMITH