Thousands of convicted criminals are likely to be sent out to shovel snow and clear pavements if, as predicted, the icy spell continues to grip Scotland.
First Minister Alex Salmond, MacAskill and local government representatives took part in a Scottish Government Resilience Committee meeting yesterday to discuss winter arrangements. After the meeting MacAskill said: "In areas where it is appropriate and there is no danger to anyone's safety, we would anticipate that people on community service will be out serving the community. We would anticipate that being done. These things are dealt with locally by social work departments and we would anticipate them (criminals] being out there helping clear snow."
Official figures from last year reveal that between 5 and 12 January, 2,106 individuals on community service and probation orders - almost 60 per cent of those available at the time - helped clear snow.
They contributed 15,465 hours of work to help in removing snow from around hospitals, schools and homes for the elderly.
Weather forecasters have predicted that snow will continue to fall heavily this week as cold weather is brought to Scotland by north easterly winds from Scandinavia.
MacAskill said that Scotland has stockpiled 360,000 tonnes of grit in order to avoid the shortfalls that hampered road clearing last year.