Putting aside hot air to deal with the cold

AS STRIKING as the current intense cold across Scotland has been its persistence. Far from being a "cold snap" of the sort typically encountered in winter, the duration of sub-zero temperatures is now reckoned to be the longest for two decades – and is putting severe strains on our transport infrastructure. This is evident both in plunging stocks of grit, with many councils unable to treat icy roads and pavements, and in the growing incidence of potholes.

The AA has warned that potholes across the network are set to increase by at least a third. This will require an urgent and intensive repair programme as soon as weather conditions permit. In turn, this means a substantial increase in expenditure on reactive road maintenance, adding to the budgetary squeeze that local councils are already facing.

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Road repair is a basic requirement of government. It cannot be pushed forward into future years because of the dangers that immediately face motorists and the continuing damage that unattended roads will inflict on vehicles. Councils would soon find themselves faced with a deluge of legal claims if the problem is not speedily addressed.

This imperative further highlights the need for a concentration of local authority spending on those items that are vital to public safety. How ironic, but how compelling it would prove, if local authorities had to curtail public relations programmes on measures to combat global warming to attend to damage inflicted by persistent freezing weather.