Shivering Scotland braces itself for freezing weekend

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SCOTLAND is bracing itself for a weekend of freezing winds with snow showers forecast to sweep the country.

As snow hit many parts of the North-east and the Highlands and Islands yesterday – affecting some roads, closing schools and forcing ferries to be cancelled – the Met Office issued a severe weather warning for the next two days.

Freezing conditions were expected to spread down the east coast today, with widespread snowfall across much of the country tomorrow morning.

Julian Mayes, senior forecaster of MeteoGroup UK, said the UK was in for a snap of cold weather with "bitingly cold winds" and that high ground in eastern Scotland could experience as much as ten centimetres of snow.

He said: "On Sunday morning most places in the eastern half of Britain will start with snow.

"Some will come down heavily with several centimetres of cover on the ground.

"It will accumulate quickly but it will be a transient feature as it will begin to turn to rain."

Yesterday, drivers battled white-out conditions on the A9 south of Aviemore and the B974 Cairn O'Mount to Fettercairn road was closed due to heavy snowfalls. Snow also hit the A920 Huntly to Dufftown route, while ice was making driving treacherous on the A941 Coleburn to Craigellachie road.

Gale force north-west winds also hit some parts.

In Aberdeenshire eight rural primaries were completely closed due to heavy snow falls and three others were partially shut because of disruption to bus services.

Caledonian MacBrayne cancelled the Oban-Lochboisdale-Barra sailing and the Ullapool-Stornoway freight service, while other routes were also disrupted. Pentland Ferries cancelled its sailings between Caithness and Orkney.

The AA yesterday advised motorists to only drive as fast as conditions would allow and to be aware of the greater stopping distances required in ice and snow.

A spokesman said: "Make sure you check local weather and traffic conditions before setting off and if conditions are particularly bad, don't travel.

"You should also make sure you carry an emergency kit in your car – including de-icers, ice scrapers and spare warm clothing or blankets – so you don't get caught out if conditions change suddenly."

Age Concern warned elderly people to take extra care to stay warm in the cold snap.

Gordon Lishman, the charity's director general, said: "With predictions of snow and very strong winds for this weekend we are urging vulnerable older people, who are more susceptible to the cold, to take extra precautions to stay warm and well."

He said fear of higher winter bills is causing many older people to cut back on essentials, such as food and energy, which could put their health at risk.

Bookmaker William Hill reported record betting levels already and has cut the odds on snow falling on Christmas Day in London from 8/1 to 6/1 and Glasgow is now as short as 7/2.

William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said: "We have never had so much money in the book with over a month to go.

"If it snows we will be paying out millions to our customers."