HEAVY rain and strong winds gusting up to 70mph are forecast to batter parts of Scotland today, threatening further flooding and travel disruption after roads and railways were shut by landslides and huge puddles.
An amber severe weather warning – “be prepared” – was issued by the Met Office for much of southern Aberdeenshire, Tayside and Central Scotland for 24 hours from mid-morning.
In addition, a yellow warning – “be aware” – covers the rest of Scotland apart from the Highlands, Western Isles and Shetland until midday tomorrow.
The Automobile Association (AA) warned drivers of the potential for “significant weather disruption affecting Christmas getaway over the weekend”.
The Met Office said: “Further bands of heavy rain accompanied by strong winds are expected to move north-eastwards across Scotland during Saturday and Sunday.
“Given that the ground is already saturated, the public should be prepared for an
increased risk of further localised flooding.”
NorthLink ferries to Orkney and Shetland are likely to be cancelled today, along with those on several CalMac routes on the west coast.
Last night, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency had 18 flood warnings in force – 15 of them in Tayside, where immediate action was required because of expected flooding. The others were in Aberdeenshire and the Borders.
A total of 12 flood alerts were issued across much of the rest of the country, where people should be prepared for possible flooding.
Darron Burness, the AA’s head of special operations, said: “The amount of rain forecast for this weekend and into Christmas is causing some concern as it could cause localised flooding almost anywhere, which will inevitably affect people heading off for the holiday period.
“Before departing, check the Met Office weather alerts and traffic updates and plan your journey accordingly.
“If you’re travelling in rural areas, try to stick to the main roads where there’s likely to be a lower risk of flooding.”
Transport minister Keith Brown said: “The public can help the [trunk road] network cope if conditions do deteriorate by staying patient and making
sensible decisions, such as allowing extra time for their journeys or listening to police advice about when it is safe to travel.”
The warnings came as travellers were hit by a series of road and rail closures caused by the bad weather.
Trains on the main line between Edinburgh, Glasgow and the north were halted by a landslip one mile south of Perth.
Trees and debris which slid down a slope blocked one of the two tracks, with passengers to and from Edinburgh forced to transfer to buses between Perth and Ladybank in Fife.
Another landslide briefly closed the Glasgow-Fort William line at Tyndrum.
Flooding delayed trains south of Montrose on the Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen line.
On the roads, a landslide at St Fillans in Perthshire shut the A85, while flooding forced the closure of several routes across Tayside, and others in Aberdeenshire and Fife.
They included the A92 in Dundee, A907 in Stirling, A911 near Kinross, A923 near Coupar Angus and A937 in Marykirk, north of Montrose.
The closures came after firefighters spent much of Thursday night clearing water away from homes across Fife and Tayside, with several people having to be rescued from their cars.
The River Eden in Cupar, Fife, burst its banks yesterday, forcing nearby residents and businesses to lay out sandbags.
At Comrie in Perthshire, which was flooded last month, the Water of Ruchill again burst its banks, but recently installed flood defences held the water at bay, council officials said.
Tayside Police hit out at drivers who added to the problems by driving too quickly on waterlogged roads, which it described as “dangerous and inconsiderate”.
Sergeant Mark Hill said: “We had to warn several drivers about their speed, particularly in built-up areas such as Brechin and Forfar.”
He added: “We had to stop and speak with drivers on roads out of town because they were driving at speeds beyond what
is safe for the wet road conditions.
“Officers have attended several collisions during this spell of dreadful weather where road surfaces have been affected by floodwater.”
The appeal came after two drivers were stopped for allegedly driving at around 100mph on the M8 on Thursday night during what police described as extremely poor conditions.
Superintendent Jim Baird, of Strathclyde Police, said: “If you drive in excess of the speed limit, you risk not just your life but other road users’ lives.”
The Met Office ruled out a white Christmas for all but those who choose to celebrate on the highest mountains, with Christmas Day expected to be mild and showery across the rest of Scotland.
Bookmaker Ladbrokes has lengthened the odds of Christmas Day snow in Edinburgh from 2/1 to 4/1, with an 8/1 chance that 25 December this year will be the wettest yet recorded.
Spokeswoman Jessica Bridge said: “As the week has gone by, the odds have risen just like the temperatures and sadly we’ve had to give up on the white Christmas dream.”