Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at heavy goods lorries for contributing to logjams on Scotland’s main roads despite warnings not to travel.
The First Minister voiced concerns over footage of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) involved in hold-ups on the trunk roads networks despite “red” weather warnings in whiteout conditions. Scots firms were also warned not to put pressure on workers to make the journey into work during the weather carnage.
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The M80 between Glasgow and Stirling saw tailbacks of up to eight miles with reports of up to 1000 vehicles stranded for up to eight hours in freezing conditions overnight. Labour’s Monica Lennon told MSPs at First Ministers Questions today there were “hundreds of lorries” contributing to the problem and called for the transport minister to liaise with the haulage industry to ensure drivers are not taking “unnecessary risks”.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “I’m going to be quite blunt here.
“I was paying very close attention to the live cameras on the M80 over the course of yesterday afternoon and yesterday evening.
“And if I can be absolutely frank there were far more HGVs on that road than there should have been when a red warning was in place.
“I do think we have to be very clear in the message we’re sending to companies who deliver goods with HGVs, and this is not a criticism of drivers because driver safety is one of the important issues here.
“During a red weather warning an HGV should not be on one of our trunk roads unless it is absolutely unavoidable. I saw some branded HGVs in pictures yesterday and given the branding on them I would struggle to say that their transport was unavoidable.”
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Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the harsh weather should also see a responsibility on employers not to put pressure on staff to work by the prospect of “losing pay” to stay safe.
Ms Sturgeon “I would take this opportunity to urge employers and call on employers to be flexible and above all else to make sure that they are putting the safety of their workers first and above anything else.
She added; “When weather warnings , red or amber, as there have been in recent days, these are not warnings just issued for the sake of convenience. These are warnings issued for the safety of the public and in particular the travelling public.
“Employers must make sure they're acting in a way that prioritises the safety of their staff at all times and I hope that’s a message that goes out loudly and clearly today.”
The Road Haulage Association quickly moved to defend lorry drivers, saying Ms Sturgeon’s suggestion that HGVs should not use Scottish trunk roads unless absolutely unavoidable was “naive in the extreme”.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “In many cases, particularly in isolated areas, a HGV will be the only vehicle with the capability of getting through. “The drivers of these vehicles should be applauded – not pilloried.”
The association pointed out the very nature of the logistics industry meant many of lorries on the road would have been halfway through a three or four-day journey when the extreme weather struck and would have no alternative but to press on until they reached their delivery destination.