Sturgeon: No five-mile travel limit to see your parents

Scotland is on track to begin easing the lockdown from next Thursday, but Scots should 'use their judgement'.

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You will be able to visit family members living in a different household even if it means travelling more than five miles, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

Discussing changes likely to begin from the end of next week, the First Minister asked Scots to “use their judgement” when planning to meet other households.

As an example, she suggested that if you having to travel a long enough distance to visit relatives that you need to use the toilet in their house, you shouldn’t visit them.

There is a risk if you are infectious of leaving the virus on their surfaces, Sturgeon said, particularly if you are visiting elderly family members more vulnerable to coronavirus.

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The Scottish Government’s plan for phase one of easing the Covid-19 lockdown says people can meet members of one other household outside, provided they stay socially distanced from each other.

However, the new guidance, published on Thursday, also instructs Scots to only travel locally for exercise or recreational purposes, suggesting a limit of five miles.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s press briefing on Friday, Sturgeon clarified this five-mile limit did not extend to going to see family and loved ones.

She also further explained the rule on meeting other households, saying you can only visit members from one household at a time – but you can meet people from other households at different times.

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The First Minister reiterated that none of these changes are in effect yet – for now, the lockdown remains in place and you must not meet other households.

She said: “We do need to stick with it for a few more days.

“Not all of the phase one measures will necessarily be introduced next Thursday, but I hope that most of them will be, or at least a day or two afterwards.”

Sturgeon continued: “You’ll be able in this first phase to sit outside or sunbathe in parks or other open areas.

“And as long as you stay two metres apart, you will be able to meet outside with people from another household including in private gardens.

“That doesn’t limit you to seeing just one specific household during this phase.

“You can see different households but we are asking you only to meet with one at a time.”

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She added: “We’re also not intending to put a five-mile limit on the distance you can travel to, for example, sit with your parents in their garden.

“But we are asking you to use judgement, and increasingly as we come out of lockdown, I’m going to more and more be relying on you to exercise the good judgement that I know you will.

“If, for example, you have to travel a long distance to see a relative outside, you’re more likely to perhaps go inside the house to, for example, use the bathroom.

“We don’t want you to go inside others’ houses in this phase because if you are infectious, maybe without knowing about it, you risk leaving the virus on surfaces inside the house and that would pose a risk to other people.

“Particularly if you are visiting elderly relatives, that is a risk we do not want you to take.”

Sturgeon: I’ve never been so certain independence will happen

The First Minister addressed delegates at the virtual SNP conference on Saturday.

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Scotland is a “nation on the brink of making history”, Nicola Sturgeon declared, as she insisted the country’s people have the “right” to choose their own future in a second independence referendum.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vetoed SNP calls for a fresh vote on the issue, the First Minister has said she hopes another ballot could be held in the early part of the next term of the Scottish Parliament.

The question is set to dominate next May’s Holyrood elections, with Sturgeon’s party using the campaign to step up their demands for another referendum.

Recent opinion polls have suggested that a majority of Scots now support the country becoming independent.

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And Sturgeon, addressing the SNP annual conference, told party activists that “the people of Scotland have the right to choose their future”.

She stated: “Scotland is now a nation on the brink of making history.

“Independence is in clear sight – and if we show unity of purpose, humility and hard work, I have never been so certain that we will deliver it.”

Her comments on unity came after SNP MP Joanna Cherry used an interview with the Times newspaper to hit out at the “cult of leader” in the party, insisting it is damaging to “put all your faith on one person”,

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Cherry said a “more collegiate leadership” style is needed, as she also criticised the “no debate mentality” as being “really unhealthy”.

The MP said: “It’s an unfortunate tendency in modern political discourse, which I’ve labelled #nodebate.

“It typifies a small minority in my party and has bled through from the debate about reform of the Gender Recognition Act, to include alternative plans for an independence referendum. I think it’s very unhealthy and I don’t think it represents the majority view in the party.”

SNP leader Sturgeon said that, in order to win independence, the party must “reach out to all of Scotland like never before”.

Speaking at the start of the online event, she said: “Let us demonstrate, with cool heads and patient persuasion, that Scotland is ready to take its place in the global family of independent nations.”

Support for independence has risen to become the “sustained and majority view in public opinion this year,” Sturgeon said.

And she stressed that, while the “primary focus” must currently be on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, “Scotland must also be ready for what comes next”.

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She told the conference that Covid-19 had “taken thousands of lives” and “upended our society”, with businesses and the economy “severely” damaged.

But she claimed that with independence Scotland could have a “resilient economy, with job creation and fairness at its heart” and would be able to “protect and invest in public services like our NHS”.

Sturgeon continued: “We can overcome poverty, inequality, and we lead the way in tackling the climate emergency.

“The question for all of us as we look ahead to the election next May is this – who should be taking the decisions that shape our futures?

“We know that it is the people who live here, wherever they come from, who can best harness Scotland’s immense human and natural resources to the benefit of everyone.”


SNP pledge free breakfast and lunch for children if re-elected

Education Secretary John Swinney made the pledge during the SNP conference on Saturday.

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Pledge: Free breakfast and lunch for primary school children if SNP re-elected.

The SNP will provide free breakfast and lunch to primary school children in Scotland all year round if re-elected next May, Education Secretary John Swinney has pledged.

He made the commitment as he warned that Scotland was facing a “tsunami of child poverty” if UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak imposes a “second wave of austerity”.

In response, Mr Swinney promised free breakfasts and lunches for every primary school pupil in Scotland.

The policy would be implemented from August 2022, making Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals.

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The Scottish Education Secretary said: “Just as we extended free meals through the holidays this year and next, if re-elected we will extend free school meals through every school holidays.”

The commitment came as he told the SNP conference how the Westminster Government had “ignored” Scotland during the coronavirus crisis, rejecting pleas from Scottish ministers for the furlough scheme to be extended, with this only happening “when the economic problems of Covid hit the south of England”.

Mr Swinney, also Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, said the coronavirus pandemic had “shown us just how little financial security some families have”.

He spoke about the plight of “families not entitled to many benefits, families in work”, saying that “they are already hard pressed and Tory austerity will hit them harder”.

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While he said the Scottish Government had acted – citing the introduction of next year’s £10 a week Scottish Child Payment to poorer families – he also said more must be done.

He told the conference that if re-elected in May, the SNP would make free breakfasts and lunches available to “all primary school pupils,” stressing this would apply to “all classes, all year round”.

Mr Swinney said: “That is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty.”

While children already receive free school meals in P1 through to P3, he said: “We will not leave a child at the mercy of a Tory Chancellor just because they are in P4, P5, P6 or P7.

“If elected next May, from 2022 we will extend universal free school lunches to all primary school pupils, P1 to P7.”

He continued: “We want every child to have every chance to learn every minute of every school day, starting from the moment they arrive in class.

“A child arriving at school hungry cannot learn as well as they should. So, we will also extend free provision of a healthy breakfast to all primary school pupils as well.

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“Breakfast and lunch for every pupil every school day.

“But another lesson of 2020 is term-time isn’t enough. Hunger doesn’t take a holiday and so neither can we.

“Just as we extended free meals through the holidays this year and next, if re-elected we will extend free school meals through every school holidays.”

The promise comes as footballer Marcus Rashford continues his efforts to lobby the UK Government to extend the provision of free meals south of the border.

Mr Swinney went on to tell SNP supporters the coronavirus pandemic had brought about a “seismic shift in the psyche of Scotland”, saying people now routinely looked to the First Minister rather than Westminster for leadership.

He praised Nicola Sturgeon, describing her as having “bared her soul almost every day… as she shared the agonising decisions Government has had to make over the last eight months”.

He added: “We have not got every decision right but the people of Scotland have seen who places their interests – sometimes their very safety – at the heart of decision making.”

Mr Swinney said that one “lesson of Covid” was “not just that you can trust the SNP, but that Scotland can trust herself”.

He told people: “We can have faith in ourselves as a nation, as capable, talented and ready to face life’s challenges as any other country.

“As this pandemic has continued, the people of Scotland have seen the truth of that argument with every passing day.

“We have always said that the solution to Scotland’s problems do not lie in London. Never was that more obvious than in 2020.

“In the moment of crisis, our nation’s eyes did not turn to Westminster. It was not the Prime Minister who people looked to. It was the Government here in Scotland and our First Minister.”

Mr Swinney added: “It is deeply telling that even those people yet to be convinced by the merits of independence did not look to London, to Westminster or to Boris Johnson.

“When it mattered most, we all looked to Scotland’s own leader, our own Government, and our own Parliament.”


Coronavirus: 44 deaths and 788 new cases in past 24 hours

Another 77 people with recently confirmed Covid-19 are in intensive care and 1077 are being treated in hospital.

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Coronavirus: 44 people die of virus in past 24 hours.

Scotland has recorded 44 deaths from coronavirus and 788 positive cases in the past 24 hours.

The death total has now risen to 3,720 people who died having tested positive for the virus, with 5,380 deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

There are 1077 people with recently confirmed Covid-19 in hospital, with 77 in intensive care. 

Meanwhile there were 21,494 new tests for coronavirus that reported results, with 4.4% of these positive.

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NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the highest number of new cases with 221, followed by NHS Lanarkshire at 166, NHS Lothian with 122, NHS Fife at 59 and NHS Ayrshire and Arran with 58.

No cases were recorded in the Western Isles, Shetland or Orkney.

A total of 1,170,888 people in Scotland have been tested at least once since the start of the outbreak and of these, 93,943 have tested positive.


‘Puppy farms’ raided with 80 animals taken into care

On Friday, officers raided two properties in East Ayrshire as part of an operation targeting the low-welfare puppy trade.

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Police: Officers raided two properties in East Ayrshire.

Police and the Scottish SPCA have seized 80 animals as part of an operation targeting the low-welfare puppy trade.

On Friday morning, officers raided two properties in East Ayrshire following a multi-agency briefing at Kilmarnock police station.

Dogs, puppies, cats and kittens were seized in the search.

A spokesperson from the Scottish SPCA said: “This raid was part of Operation Delphin, a multi-agency taskforce set up to tackle the low-welfare puppy trade. 

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“Investigations are ongoing.”

A force spokesperson said Police Scotland is “absolutely committed” to  disrupting those involved in serious and organised crime in Scotland.

They added: “The low-welfare trade of animals is just one example where criminals seek to profit from the misery of others.

“Thousands of puppies are born into the illegal puppy trade each year. Many are kept in horrendous conditions, are often removed from their mothers too early – causing distress, harm and health problems, all in the name of a quick profit.

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“We work closely with a variety of organisations to detect and disrupt illegal activity.”

If you have any concerns about the welfare of animals in your area, call the Scottish SPCA’s confidential helpline on 03000 999 999.

For more information on the campaign against the illegal puppy trade, click here.


Whisky auction for Doddie Weir’s foundation raises £50,000

The auction has become one of My Name’5 Doddie Foundation's biggest fundraising events amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

My Name’5 Doddie Foundation via email
My Name’5 Doddie Foundation: A whisky auction raised more than £50,000.

Rugby legend Doddie Weir is toasting the generosity of whisky lovers across the country.

Supporters of his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation have raised more than £50,000 through an online auction of rare bottles and brands.

The auction – organised and run by The Whisky Shop – has become one of the foundation’s biggest fundraising events amid the Covid-19 pandemic as it continues to fund and support drug trials and research into motor neurone disease (MND), which Doddie was diagnosed with almost four years ago.

Jill Douglas, the foundation’s chief executive, said: “We are absolutely blown away by the generosity shown by the bidders in this very special whisky auction.

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“It has been a tough few months for all charities and we are also very conscious that people are experiencing uncertainty and hardship so we want to thank everyone involved.

“A great many people worked so hard to make this a success and a huge thank you goes to the distilleries and individuals who donated this very special selection of whiskies – they have given collectors and whisky lovers a chance to buy some unique bottles while supporting our foundation.”

The foundation, which recently celebrated its third anniversary, has donated £5.8m towards MND research, as well as a further £1m to support people with the disease.

Ms Douglas added: “This is only possible through your wonderful and continued support. And we have big plans for 2021 so watch this space.”


Cash-strapped Waverley counting the cost of the pandemic

The iconic paddle steamer is facing a cash crisis after the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on takings.

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The Waverley paddle steamer is preparing to take the down season off, berthed on the banks of the Clyde. 

The past year has taken its toll in every way, with cancellations, crashes and a cash crisis. 

Earlier this year, £2.3m was raised to make the vessel operational again, but restrictions delayed work to replace the boilers and funnels. 

This year’s season only lasted for two weeks, meaning its owners can’t afford the annual maintenance costs of £500,000.

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Paul Semple, from Waverley Excursions, said: “In a normal season, Waverley will carry 100,000 passengers. This year we were less than 6,000.

‘That was how much [the coronavirus pandemic] reduced our business and therefore reduced our opportunity to earn sufficient funds to maintain Waverley through this current winter. 

“We’re into our normal winter refit period, where there’s routine maintenance but that is highly costly and we need to raise £500,000 in total.”

In September, the paddle steamer collided with Brodick pier on the Isle of Arran, with 24 people injured in the incident.

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As a result, the ship now needs major repairs, however the cost has been covered.

“Waverley will receive a new bow when she’s dry docked and the cost of that will be met by insurance, it is not part of the appeal monies to fund the bow repair,” Paul added.

If the money isn’t found to cover the annual maintenance works, then the vessel will miss its dry dock timetable and next year’s season could be cancelled.

Author and historian Iain Quinn believes the Waverley should be saved, especially as next year marks 75 years since the ship was launched. 

“The Waverley is a priceless, tourist gem, she’s a real piece of gold and I firmly believe she should never be destroyed,” he said.

“Once you lose this, there will never be another opportunity. That’s it gone. 

“It will be assigned to a quay wall somewhere and it won’t be the same.”

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If the cash is raised in time, owners hope it will mean the Waverley can survive under her own steam once more.


New walk-through coronavirus testing centre opens up

The facility is based at Fleming House car park in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire.

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Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A new walk-through coronavirus testing centre has opened in North Lanarkshire.

The facility, based at Fleming House car park in Cumbernauld, is part of a drive to continue to improve the accessibility of Covid-19 testing for local communities.

The centre, which is easily accessible for people without a car, is being operated by Mitie on behalf of the UK Government.

Gabe Docherty, director of public health at NHS Lanarkshire, said: “The public health department continues to contact-trace positive cases and clusters in our community and this addition to the UK testing provision is welcome.  

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“I want to thank the public for their cooperation in reducing spread of the virus and ask that they please remain vigilant. 

“The general measures to minimise the risk of Covid-19 remain the same – face coverings, avoid crowded places, clean your hands, two-metre distance, self-isolate and go for a test if you have symptoms.  

“Please do not hesitate if you have symptoms. It’s critical that you go for a test and this walk-in centre is a very welcome addition to our testing capacity.”

Tests must be booked in advance. Click here or call 0800 028 2816.


Shift in tone won’t hasten return of football fans

The SPFL's public letter to Nicola Sturgeon marked a change in tack for the league body.

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Fans have only been allowed to return on a very limited basis so far.

Looking over the border and drawing comparisons has never been a productive pastime for Scottish football fans, though it’s as old as the game itself.

Comparing level of play, standards of player, transfer fees or TV deals, there’s rarely a fair or accurate way to weigh up the two and never widespread agreement on conclusions reached.

This week, attention turned to supporters and the decision by the UK Government to “give the green light” to fans returning to stadia in England.

The scale of the return is limited but it prompted a change in tone for the discussion in Scotland about supporters being back in the stands and what, or who, is the barrier to progress.

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In the vast majority of grounds, doors have been closed since April with games played in front of empty seats. Test events were held and took place without any major problems or identified outbreaks of coronavirus. So the obvious questions in recent months have been “When will fans be back as a matter of course?” and “When will they be back in substantial numbers?”.

The Scottish football authorities have been keen to know the answers to the unknowable for some time but on Wednesday the Scottish Professional Football League stepped things up a gear, writing to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon requesting a meeting. Citing the English example, they wanted a meeting “at any time, day or night” to discuss a timescale.

The letter was signed by SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster but, as he’s fond of saying “The SPFL is the member clubs” and there’s little likelihood he would be turning up the pressure in public if he hadn’t been urged to do so in private.

Doncaster’s urgency is understandable. The prolonged absence of supporters deprives clubs of their main source of income and will have grave consequences if it continues without end. The chief executive said that “failure to get fans back in the very near future will sound the death knell for some of our best-loved clubs” and he was only echoing what clubs have said themselves for some time.

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Government has been in discussion with football’s governing bodies since the start of the crisis but this new approach was a direct appeal to the top.

It varied in style from a strident ‘Let me speak to the manager’ (“If the First Minister refuses to allow football fans all over Scotland to watch their beloved teams… she will have to explain to them the clinical difference between Scottish fans and English fans”) to a more persuasive ‘Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope’ (“You alone have the chance to put a much-needed smile on the faces of millions of Scottish football fans”).

Neither plea made a difference.

Though it’s understood no written response has been received by the SPFL following their formal request for a meeting, national clinical director Jason Leitch addressed the issue when standing alongside the First Minister at Wednesday’s daily briefing.

“We are cautious but we have a route back for fans,” he said.

“The route back for fans is lower levels (of coronavirus) – and lower levels rely on prevalence in the community.

“We understand the nature of the football business and we need to both support that financially but also support it to get that revenue back for them.

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“But not at the expense of prevalence, hospital admissions and death.”

Loud and clear. Whether it’s letter from the league, or tweets from clubs, it’s unlikely to move the Scottish Government one way or the other. Public health guidelines, whether you agree with them or not, won’t be shifted to any great degree by lobbying in this case.

If exchanging Christmas gifts indoors is at the outer limit of what’s considered permissible but still risky, then exchanging insults with rival fans in the stands isn’t going to jump up the pecking order any time soon.

The following day, Minister for Sport Joe Fitzpatrick doubled down on the position, saying there was “no immediate prospect” of an increase in the numbers allowed in grounds in Tier 0 or Tier 1 areas, and “no plans” to allow fans in at all in the higher tiers.

Given the widespread warnings about the difficulties in reducing the numbers surrounding the virus, it’s no surprise that an opening of the gates has been so quickly dismissed.

The prospect of an ongoing lock-out, and a slow, incremental return affects more than the league clubs.

The Scottish FA moved the showpiece games from the climax of last season’s Scottish Cup to October and December in the hope the pandemic would have passed and some ticket sales would be permitted but the cup final will be played in an empty Hampden next month. In addition, the governing body will be keen to see the Tartan Army return to the national stadium for March’s World Cup qualifier.

UEFA are monitoring differing situations across Europe as they prepare for the delayed Euro 2020 finals and there’s growing realisation that full houses across the board are unlikely.

Everyone is affected by the current situation, which makes the SPFL’s decision to go it alone and dial up the rhetoric all the more surprising.

The announcement of the changes down south were the trigger for Wednesday’s public letter but brought out the acute concerns that are being felt across the country.

Demanding comparison and explanation is unlikely to smooth the path for an improvement in the situation though.

The rejection of their public move will be sorely felt by the 42 SPFL clubs but as they ponder their next step they may well consider part of the detail of Leitch’s comments.

“We need to both support [football] financially but also support it to get that revenue back for them,” he said. The dire situation that Doncaster described does need a response and it may be that dialogue over further financial support is needed before changes allow the stands to fill again.


Grit Down on It: Residents help rename council gritters

West Dunbartonshire Council launched a competition last month to rebrand the trucks ahead of winter.

West Dunbartonshire Council via email
Grit Down on It: The council's eight gritters have been given new names.

Residents in West Dunbartonshire have renamed the council’s eight gritters.

A competition was launched last month to rebrand the trucks ahead of winter.

After more than 300 entries, the winning names picked were:

  • Ben Snowmond, nominated by Jen Watt
  • Humphry Clinker the Grit Sprinkler, nominated by George McKeown
  • Singer Salting Machine, nominated by Sheila Donnelly
  • George Plowie, nominated by John McInally
  • The Spreadable Hulk, nominated by Adam Ramage
  • Grit Down On it, nominated by Mhairi Halliday
  • Saltasaurus, nominated by Sam Lyle
  • Sharleen Griteri, nominated by Jacqui Edwards

Many of the names were chosen due to local interest.

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Humphry Clinker the Grit Sprinkler was named after a character in one of Tobias Smollet’s books, an author and poet from Renton.

Sharleen Griteri was named after Texas frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri, who was brought up in Balloch and attended Vale of Leven Academy.

Meanwhile, Singer Salting Machine pays tribute to a sewing machine company based in Clydebank that sells products around the world from the edge of the Clyde.

The newly-branded vehicles will be out gritting West Dunbartonshire’s roads all through winter.

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Councillor Iain McLaren, convener of infrastructure, regeneration and economic development, said: “A big thank you to everyone who took the time to enter the competition, especially our winners. 

“With more than 300 entries, it was extremely difficult to pick just eight names, and so many of the suggestions really made us laugh.

“I hope the winners feel proud when they see the gritter they named out on the streets of West Dunbartonshire, keeping us all moving through the worst of the winter weather.

“Of course, if severe weather hits, then some disruptions may be inevitable, but a lot of work has gone into preparations for winter, and we will do everything we can to keep this to a minimum.”

More than 4000 tonnes of rock salt is available to help keep West Dunbartonshire moving this winter.

The road teams have been on 24-hour standby since October, reacting when temperatures dip below freezing or if there is a risk of ice.

When severe weather conditions are forecast, the council grits more than 60% of the local authority’s public road network. The Greenspace team also work to ensure footpaths near schools, care homes, hospitals and other priority routes are kept clear.

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The council has more than 450 roadside grit bins across the area, meaning that generally no home is more than 300m from a supply should it become necessary. This level of provision is one of the highest per heads of population in Scotland.

Councillor Marie McNair, vice convener of infrastructure, regeneration and economic development, added: “Our roads team work tirelessly every winter and this year will be no different. 

“Often the weather can turn quickly and without much advance notice, so I would encourage all residents to think about what they can do now to prepare, before any bouts of severe weather hit. 

“I would also ask residents to think of what they can do to help in their area during bad weather, including checking on any elderly or vulnerable neighbours.”

A map detailing gritting routes and locations of grit bins is available on the council’s website.


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