Now weather even threatens your strawberries and cream

Fruit growers in Scotland have warned that stores could run short of strawberries and raspberries next month because their summer harvest was devastated by this week's brutal storms.

Expensive polytunnels covering soft fruit plants have been ripped up by the high winds that lashed the country on Monday - and many of the plants underneath were damaged.

Scotland is home to a large proportion of the UK's fruit farms, producing 15,000 tonnes of strawberries in addition to raspberries and blueberries.

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Replacing the tunnels can cost up to 12,000 an acre, while damage to delicate flowers due to turn into fruit for harvesting next month can cause lumpen and misshapen fruit - which subsequently sell for a discount.

The hit to farmers came as Scotland braced itself for a second day of winds reaching up to 45mph yesterday.

"This has been huge - it is the tsunami for the fruit trade," said Robert Sinclair, who has a small fruit farm in East Lothian. Mr Sinclair said some colleagues had lost up to 70 per cent of their crop in Monday's winds.

"The big growers in Fife and Perthshire have suffered massive losses," he added.

John Mitchell of Allanhill Farm, near St Andrews, said more than three quarters of the polytunnels he had installed on his 115-acre farm had been damaged.

"I have suffered quite significant damage to my farm - enough to have quite a big impact on the season," he said.

"I don't think we'll have to resort to imports, although there could be a period towards the end of next month when there is a bit of a shortage."

He said the last time his farm had suffered such significant damage had been a decade ago.

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Some co-operatives, of which most fruit growers are members, have opted to release annual payments to farmers two months early this year to help growers pay for the damage.

Fruit farm Stewart's of Tayside was dealt a double hit as it was left without power for more than 24 hours - as well as suffering damage to its polytunnels.

The farm, near Perth, was one of more than 55,000 properties in Scotland that was cut off as high winds blew down power lines and knocked out pylons.

Energy companies yesterday battled with extreme weather conditions and the volcanic ash cloud as they tried to reconnect customers to the grid.Thousands of customers were still without power yesterday evening, although both ScottishPower and Scottish Hydro said they would get as many households connected overnight as possible.

ScottishPower said its usual method of using helicopters to fly along damaged power lines to pinpoint the locations of the damage had to be abandoned as the planes were grounded amid fears of ash affecting them.

Monday was classed as an "exceptional" weather incident by Ofgem - the highest rating of a weather-related power disruption. ScottishPower said it had sent 500 engineers - including emergency staff brought up from Merseyside and North Wales - to try to cope.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Hydro said: "Power distribution staff are doing everything possible to restore supplies as quickly as possible, drafting in additional staff from other areas of the company and sister company Southern Electric Power Distribution."

Transport minister Keith Brown said there had been a "remarkable effort" by workers across the transport and energy sectors to restore order on Scotland's roads and rails.

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Mr Brown chaired a meeting of the Scottish Resilience Committee to co-ordinate action in response to the severe weather.

Meanwhile, a 27-year-old man was airlifted to hospital after suffering serious leg injuries when his lorry overturned in the Western Isles yesterday.

The high-sided vehicle broke though a crash barrier as it drove down a twisting mountain road on the Isle of Harris.