City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Army May Be Brought In To Shift Edinburgh's Snow


By edg - Posted on 07 December 2010

New Town snow

The army may be brought in to tackle Edinburgh's snow-covered residential streets as the legion of Council staff and contractors struggle to cope with "the worst snow since 1963".

The City of Edinburgh Council, facing increasing criticism of its response to the adverse weather after snow caused gridlock in the city on Monday, is in discussions with the Scottish Government and the Army base at Redford Barracks over the possibility of bringing in soldiers.

Councillor Robert Aldridge said: "The people of Edinburgh would expect us to do everything to remove the snow from residential streets as quickly as possible, while we continue the vital work of keeping the city's main thoroughfares open. It is not a done-deal but we have to look seriously at this option. If the army is able to help it won't come cheap but we believe it's a price worth paying to bring relief to our communities."

Mark Turley, the Director of Services for Communities, added: "We haven't concluded our discussions yet so none of the details have been firmed up. But I would hope we can move forward with this innovative plan in the next day or so. In submitting our request for assistance I have stressed the extreme circumstances being faced by communities in the south and west of the city, and especially the urgency of ensuring that vulnerable people have access to health and care services."

Approaches for army assistance need to be channelled through the Scottish Government but the detailed discussions will take place directly between the Council and the Army.

If the plan goes ahead, further details will be confirmed "as soon as possible".

Heaviest snow in decades

Last year, Edinburgh had ten inches of snow over four weeks. This year the city has had around 18 to 30 inches in just over one week alone.

Residential streets have remained covered in ice and snow, as the Council has focused on clearing main roads.

Responding to criticisms of its handling of yesterday's snow storm, Edinburgh City Council said that "Category 1" roads (main roads and major bus routes, roads to hospitals, ambulance depots and fire stations) were gritted four times in 24 hours in preparation for the blizzard which brought Edinburgh traffic to a standstill. However, roads staff had planned for two hours of snow showers, rather than the seven hour heavy snowfall that occured.

The Council believes it has already brought in more contractors than any other local authority in Scotland to help deal with the exceptional snowfalls and severe weather that started on Friday 26 November.

There were 600 city employees and contractors working today to get roads clear, and overnight there was a total of 29 staff working with 22 gritters clearing the roads. In addition, 12 JCB’s and a number of other specialised equipment vehicles were deployed to excavate snow before it is ploughed.

Despite constant gritting, ploughing and other snow clearing work, by hundreds of staff, Monday's heavy snowfall set back the Council's efforts of the previous week.

Responding to concern about the build-up of uncollected rubbish, the Council says that "priority attention" has also been given today to clearing snow to gain access to bin stores in multi story blocks for refuse vehicles. Staff are also removing excess waste from 'on street' bins that are full or overflowing where access is possible.

“We really hope that the Met Office reports, of no more snow this week are correct, so that we can get on with the task of clearing Category 2 and 3 routes," said Euan Kennedy, Road Services Manager at the City of Edinburgh Council. "Our staff and contractors have been working really hard over the last few days to keep the city moving. It is hard, labour intensive work as the snow often has to be excavated before it is ploughed."

With freezing conditions forecast for coming days, soldiers will need to start sharpening their tools.

Nitty Gritty of Edinburgh's Snow Clearing

  • 1,440 kms of city roads
  • 2, 770 km of city pavements
  • Edinburgh salt storage: 7,200 tonnes, up from 5,200 tonnes last year
  • 600 council workers and contractors

Social Care assistance

Around 40 emergency supplies have been delivered by the Council’s own staff and Red Cross volunteers to the homes of vulnerable people in Edinburgh.

Anyone who is concerned about someone who they feel should be getting assistance can contact the social care direct team at:

  • 0131 200 2324
  • 0800 731 6969 (out of hours service)

Severe weather updates

Edinburgh Transport

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It interesting to see how reliant  the country still is on the Army in a severe crisis or major emergency.   This is a salutory lesson for our politicians at Westminster - and in Scotland.   Many will remember how the country depended on the armed services during the firemen's strike and how the first call in a flooding crisis is to the services as soon as civil services cannot cope and, of course, there are many more examples.   How foolish therefore it would be to contemplate cuts in the Regular or Territorial Army when the nation relies on them as, "the saviours of last resort" in any major crisis.   Let us hope our politicians, of all parties,  take note.

This looks like it will go ahead. Talks are ongoing, but here's how the troops are likely to be deployed (from Council PR):

"Military personnel will be providing specialist help to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in the city are able to get from their homes to much needed medical and other emergency locations after the Council submitted a request to the Scottish Government and Ministry of Defence.

Talks are still ongoing, but under the plans, soldiers will be helping local residents from the hardest hit areas of the city, as well as those who need access to transport for medical or emergency reasons. They will also help to clear special locations such as doctors surgeries, care homes and hospitals.

Council staff will continue to concentrate on general snow clearance in residential areas as well as the continual clearing of Category 1, 2 and 3 roads."