Scotland

Communities across Scotland answer snow clear-up call

Clearing snow in Bearsden
Image caption The Scottish government urged volunteers to help clear local roads

Communities across Scotland have been answering the call to work together to clear the snow.

Scotland continues to recover from the so-called "Beast from the East" with yellow weather warnings in place until Monday.

Transport has been slowly returning to service with the first cross-Border trains to England resuming on Saturday afternoon.

Airports and trunk roads are also operating "business as usual".

Virgin Trains still has no services running between Carlisle and Scotland on the west coast main line and said it did not expect services to resume on Sunday. It hopes to offer a limited replacement bus service from Sunday morning.

A reduced service was running between Newcastle and Edinburgh but passengers were urged to only travel if necessary as trains would be busy.

The Scottish government said councils could request emergency funding to deal with the severe impact of recent heavy snowfalls.

It has triggered the Bellwin Scheme, which gives special financial assistance to councils facing extra costs due to disasters or emergencies.

Scottish ministers had asked people to join in efforts to clear local roads.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has praised the "super-human effort" by those who work in the public services and health and care workers.

He told BBC Scotland: "It has been a challenging few days for everybody.

"The transport network has been under significant pressure and individuals have felt the brunt of that."

Image caption In an estate in Bearsden in East Dunbartonshire local people rallied to get the roads cleared

He added: "We've also seen a huge effort by members of the public to provide voluntary assistance to get our communities up on their feet again.

"And it has been really heartening and encouraging to see that community spirit in evidence so clearly across Scotland over the past few days."

ScotRail earlier said it was "working day and night" to resolve the problems caused by the weather.

In the Borders, an elderly couple had whose remote home was surrounded by 12ft snowdrifts were rescued, along with their two dogs.

They were dug out of their home in West Linton by police officers and mountain rescue teams.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A couple in West Linton had to be rescued after their house became engulfed by a 12ft snowdrift

In Stirling, a couple who thought their big day was ruined by the snow had their wedding go-ahead after a last minute change of venue.

ScotRail said services running on Saturday included Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk High, Edinburgh to Dundee and Aberdeen and Inverness and Perth, as well as Glasgow Central to Kilmarnock/Ayr/East Kilbride/Newton/Neilston/Larkhall and Sheildmuir and Ayr to Girvan and Stranraer.

Services on Borders Railway and Inverness to Wick remain suspended.

A ScotRail spokesman said: "In some parts of the country there are high winds of up to 40mph, which is causing snow to drift back onto tracks in exposed areas. In many cases our snow ploughs clear a line, only for the snow to drift back as soon as the ploughs move on.

"Freezing temperatures are also causing severe icing on some of our trains and in tunnels. And some local roads remain impassable, making it difficult for our people to get into position to run our trains and staff our stations."

Image copyright Network Rail Scotland
Image caption Snow ploughs were out overnight to clear drifting snow on the Scottish section of the west coast mainline
Image copyright ScotRail
Image caption ScotRail tweeted this picture of Brora saying "there's a railway under there somewhere"

Lothian Buses are operating a Sunday service on Saturday and First Greater Glasgow said its buses are in operation with routes continually being assessed.

In Aberdeenshire, Stagecoach buses said Buchan was the worst affected area and they were unable to run services north of Ellon.

Edinburgh Airport said it was "returning to normal operations".

A spokeswoman added: "We are expecting to fly 84% of our flights today - we had 215 scheduled flights of which 34 have been cancelled.

"We encourage passengers to check with their airlines regarding their flight status."

Many communities have already started to clear the snow in their own areas and the Scottish government is calling for volunteers to help where they can in clearing up local roads and pavements and checking on vulnerable people.

Rural roads and urban streets are maintained by local authorities but the extent of snow drifts mean areas remain difficult for local people, delivery drivers and pedestrians.

Image caption In Aberdeenshire efforts were also being made to shift the snow
Image caption Elsewhere, others were putting the snow piled in the garden to good use

A Met Office yellow "be aware" warning for snow and ice is in force until Monday. This covers most of central, south and east Scotland, as well as Caithness and the Northern Isles.

The Army was drafted in to help transport medics to and from Edinburgh's two biggest hospitals after a request from NHS Lothian to the Scottish government and the MoD said it was now also helping NHS staff get to work in the Fife and Tayside areas, using up to 30 vehicles and 60 personnel.

The extreme weather has seen health boards cancel non-essential operations and outpatient appointments on Friday while NHS 24 has described its operations as being "stretched".

It has also seen feats of generosity and dedication.

Image copyright NHS Lanarkshire
Image caption Farmer Grant Neilson got nurse Louise Lawrie to a patient in his tractor

In East Kilbride, district nurse Louise Lawrie ended up doing a house call on a tractor after getting stuck in the snow visiting the patient's rural home in the Auldhouse area the day before.

Louise, 30, based at Hunter Community Health Centre in East Kilbride, said: "We managed to get hold of local farmer Grant Neilson and he agreed to run me and my occupational therapist colleague through the snow to the patient, who needs to be seen every day."

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