Volcanic ash: Stranded staff set to hit schools and offices
BUSINESS and education leaders have warned that the flights freeze, which has left thousands stranded abroad, could force offices, schools and factories to close.
As many families bunk down for yet another night in deserted airports and last-minute hotels around the world, business organisations in Scotland fear the first day back after the Easter holiday will present empty office desks across the country.
TV presenter Dan Snow was turned away by French authorities yesterday when he tried to lead a fleet of speed boats across the Channel to rescue stranded Brits in a Dunkirk-inspired move.
Firms are already struggling to export goods because of increased pressure on ferry routes, and are preparing to face further pressures with staff shortages tomorrow.
Courts could also be affected, with lawyers and judges stranded abroad, and there are also health concerns. The Anthony Nolan Trust, which provides almost 900 bone marrow transplants each year, said a UK toddler was in a life-threatening condition in hospital last night after flight restrictions prevented a marrow donation from Canada reaching her.
Business leaders said the Scottish economy was "disproportionately" affected by the closing of British airspace which has effectively cut it off from US and European markets.
It is also out on a limb from its biggest market, England, with rail freight and ferry places in high demand and road journeys taking much longer than flights.
Small businesses will be particularly affected by the cost of having to cover absences with supply staff, according to the Federation of Small Businesses. And cash-strapped councils face a hefty bill for supply teachers to ensure schools operate normally.
The Association of the Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), admitted headteachers may have to send children home if they didn't have enough staff.
John Stodter, general secretary of ADES, said: "It will be a case of trying to marshall all the relief supply teaching they have got to fill the gaps."
He added that rural schools run by a handful of staff would be most at risk of closure.
In total, 160,400 people were supposed to fly in and out of Scotland between Thursday and yesterday.
Of that, around 80,200 people failed to fly in, and as a result there could be tens of thousands of employees absent from work this morning. And with flights still cancelled today and into tomorrow, the problem could grow worse.
David Watt, executive director of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, said:
"It's going to cause a bit of havoc. It's hard to assess how many people are out there. The courts could be badly affected, they are usually busy on a Monday morning and there could be an impact with lawyers and judges not being there."
Morag Robertson, a Midlothian primary teacher stranded in Tuscany, said: "Teachers can only take our holidays at certain times so there will be a lot of teachers away and a lot of schools affected. I'm anxious about not being back for the start of term – I'm worried if they will be able to get supply cover."
A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium warned there could be shortages of exotic fresh foods, but added: "The vast majority of fresh food sold in the UK is sourced in the UK, a very small proportion is air-freighted."
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
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