No Grit If It's Not Safe In North Lanarkshire

North Lanarkshire council has warned it could be forced to stop gritting roads because of attacks on snow-clearing workers during previous winters.

It said its gritters were regularly attacked and in one incident a driver narrowly avoided injury when a man punched his fist through a gritter windscreen.

Pather, in Wishaw, has not been gritted regularly for the last two years because crews and their equipment have been targeted.

In Cumbernauld, mini-tractor drivers were sent out in the early hours of the morning to clear snow because that was deemed the safest time for workers.

Paul Jukes, executive director for environmental services at the council, said: ``If there are any attacks against any of our employees, contractors or partners we will stop gritting immediately and pull the crews out of the offending areas.

``My greatest fear is serious injury to members of my teams as a result of this irresponsible and senseless behaviour.''

The council has agreed with Strathclyde Police that where snow clearing teams come under attack they can call for help and be escorted to high-risk areas.

Mr Jukes said: ``This depends on the availability of police in what will be potentially difficult, sometimes dangerous, travel conditions. There will be a very obvious risk to officers trying to get their vehicles into areas where we have been prevented from gritting.

``It is utterly appalling that we should even have to consider leaving some areas untreated. But the safety of men and women working in extreme weather conditions must be safeguarded.''

He said Pather would go untreated again this winter if there are any repeat attacks.

Mr Jukes continued: ``Local people have a part to play in helping identify these hooligans and ensuring their area is as safe as we can make it. By far the majority of Pather residents are decent, law-abiding people who want their roads properly treated and it's thanks to the actions of a tiny minority that they are losing out on our service.''

Road gritting in North Lanarkshire is carried out by the Amey Public Services company, backed up by teams from the council's land services section.

Amey driver David Gibson, from Blantyre and based in the company's Bargeddie depot, said: ``For every resident or road user grateful for our efforts there are those who choose to throw ice and snow or throw insults. Someone even came out of their house and threw stones along with the insults.

``Even without the threat to the drivers or clearing crews, if we need to take the gritter back to the depot to carry out repairs it means one less on the road where it should be.''

North Lanarkshire and its partner companies have ``invested heavily'' in new vehicles, equipment and salt storage facilities after parts of central Scotland ground to a halt in snowstorms in December last year.

Mr Jukes said: ``We are as prepared as we can be and are determined to make every effort to keep major roads open throughout the winter season. However, I cannot stress how seriously we take these attacks.

``It is disappointing that by far the majority of attacks are coming from a few people within the communities.''

Chief Superintendent Graham Cairns, Strathclyde Police divisional commander, said: ``We are mindful of the safety of North Lanarkshire employees who in the course of their work are trying, in fact, to help local communities and will deal robustly with anyone jeopardising this.''