Hundreds stranded in snow in Scotland

LONDON (Reuters) - Motorists in Scotland were told to stay at home after hundreds of drivers were stranded overnight after snow and freezing temperatures brought more chaos to travellers in northern Britain.

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Strathclyde, Lothian and Borders and Central Scotland police forces advised against travel on Tuesday as deep snow and icy conditions left main roads impassable.

“We are advising motorists again not to travel unless the journey is absolutely essential,” said Chief Superintendent Allan Moffat.

“We are extremely keen to prevent the experiences over the last 24 hours where we have had many people stranded in their vehicles for lengthy periods.”

He said the gritting measures did not work when temperatures fell below minus 10C.

Temperatures in Scotland dropped well below freezing overnight to as low as minus 18 Celsius (-0.4 Fahrenheit), and more heavy snow trapped many drivers in their vehicles while others abandoned their cars.

Scotland’s Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said the authorities had been dealing with what police had described as “unprecedented conditions”.

“It’s certainly not the case that we’ve managed to deal with the problem in a way which is acceptable and I very much regret that,” he told BBC radio, adding his staff had done an “excellent job”.

“I’m sorry that people have experienced the inconvenience.”

Media reported that 150 pupils, parents and staff were forced to spend the night in a South Lanarkshire school after the conditions meant they were unable to get home.

The M876, M80 and M8 motorways were all badly affected and police said they had helped stranded drivers get hotel accommodation or receive hot drinks and food.

All the vehicles that were abandoned on the M876 have now been removed, police said, although much of the motorway along with parts of the M9 and M80 remained closed.

However, there was better news for air passengers as Glasgow and Edinburgh airports were both open on Tuesday morning.

Britain, which last year shivered through its coldest winter in 30 years, has not seen such widespread early snowfall since 1993.

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Keith Weir