Latest: Scottish transport minister apologises after motorists stranded overnight

Latest: Scottish transport minister apologises after motorists stranded overnight
Vehicles make their way through heavy snow in Midlothian near Edinburgh.

Update 1.10pm: Scotland's transport minister has apologised after more than 200 motorists were stranded overnight on the M74 as heavy snow and ice caused treacherous driving conditions.

Dozens of schools have been closed in parts of Scotland, while public transport has been disrupted by the weather.

Police Scotland closed parts of the motorway in Lanarkshire in both directions due to wintry conditions for a number of hours overnight - with tailbacks stretching 12 miles southbound and seven miles northbound at one stage.

The Met Office has issued fresh amber "be prepared" warnings of heavy snow for southern Scotland and northern England on Wednesday into Thursday.

Mountain rescue teams were drafted in to check on drivers on the M74 overnight, many of whom were stuck in their vehicles for several hours.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf apologised to those stranded in their vehicles.

He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Let me give an apology to those commuters that would have been stuck for a number of hours in their vehicles, particularly on the M74, where it's been a really, really challenging night.

"We knew of this, we've been warning of it since last week, we've been patrolling with gritters across the entire network but the depth of the snow, the amount of snow and the widespread nature of it frankly made it extremely, extremely challenging across the country."

Snow blankets the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh.
Snow blankets the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh.

Sam Sykes, a surveyor from Biggar, South Lanarkshire, said he was stuck on the M74 for around 12 hours - from 6pm on Tuesday until around 5.30am on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old was travelling from Dalry in Ayrshire to Biggar after work.

He said: "It was really horrible as you would imagine. I was constantly checking the Traffic Scotland site for any updates but information was very limited.

He added: "I got a little bit of sleep but the combination of cold and not knowing if you were going to be moving again restricted that.

"The length of time, the cold and the uncertainty of when it would start again was the worst part."

Earlier: More than 200 motorists were stranded overnight on the M74 as heavy snow and ice caused treacherous driving conditions.

Photo issued by Dumfries and Galloway Virtual Operations Support Team of motorists being helped in the snow in the Dumfries and Galloway area after snow and ice brought treacherous driving conditions to Scotland.
Photo issued by Dumfries and Galloway Virtual Operations Support Team of motorists being helped in the snow in the Dumfries and Galloway area after snow and ice brought treacherous driving conditions to Scotland.

Dozens of schools have been closed in some parts of Scotland, while public transport has been disrupted by the weather.

Police Scotland closed parts of the motorway in Lanarkshire in both directions due to wintry conditions for a number of hours overnight - with tailbacks stretching 12 miles southbound and seven miles northbound at one stage.

Mountain rescue teams were drafted in to check on drivers, many of whom were stuck in their vehicles for several hours after heavy snow showers hit the area throughout Tuesday evening and into the early hours of Wednesday.

Police declared a critical incident as they dealt with the situation and said that more than 200 people were stranded.

Transport Scotland said the M74 was now open in both directions, but that conditions remain challenging after a "very difficult night".

Agencies are now working to keep the traffic moving.

Chief Superintendent Stewart Carle told BBC Good Morning Scotland: "The gritters are out, they are continually putting down more grit and ploughing, they are using heavy rescue vehicles to give jack-knifed lorries a tow to get them straightened up again, this will be a slow process and if the weather looks like it’s going to turn again please listen in, we may give a message to say avoid travel on the M74."

Moffat Mountain Rescue assisted the operation to get the road clear by walking on the motorway and visiting drivers stuck in the tailbacks.

All schools in the Borders are closed due to the weather while 16 secondary schools, 58 primaries and 44 nurseries in the Highlands are shut.

Around 20 schools in Dumfries and Galloway and 28 schools and nurseries in South Lanarkshire are also closed.

The Met Office has issued yellow "be aware" warnings of snow and ice for much of the country which are valid until Friday.

More than a foot (36cm) of snow was recorded in Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway, Glenanne in Co Armagh had 23cm, while Tulloch Bridge in Inverness saw 21cm of snow overnight with temperatures as low as minus 4C, forecasters said.

Latest: Scottish transport minister apologises after motorists stranded overnight

Elsewhere across England and Wales, the mercury did not reach above 2C.

Meteorologist Alex Burkill said: "There have been plenty of heavy snow showers, particularly across Scotland. It’s pretty bleak out there in some places. A good chunk of the UK is effectively covered by snow and ice warning this morning."

Looking ahead for Wednesday, he added: "It is going to be quite windy as low pressure pushes through tonight and that could bring some snow across parts of Scotland and in particular northern England."

Forecasters warned the winds could reach 70mph across northern England and Wales on Wednesday evening - and potentially could be another named storm.

Mr Burkill added: "Once that clears out, we will return to frequent showers pushing in from the north west through Thursday and Friday."

Police Scotland warned there is a high risk of disruption for journeys and said drivers of HGVs should drive with extreme caution.

"Winter driving is a question of common sense and drivers should ask themselves if they really need to travel when conditions are poor," police said in a statement.

"If you are travelling on the roads, you should ensure you and your vehicle are adequately prepared for the conditions, making sure you have sufficient fuel and supplies such as warm clothing, food and water in the event you are delayed for several hours," officers added.

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