Snowfall disrupts commuters as weather warnings may reach highest level

Hundreds of drivers were stranded on a motorway overnight as a red weather warning for snow was in place across central Scotland. It is the first time a red alert for snow has been issued in Scotland, and only the second time anywhere in the UK.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said amber warnings for snow and freezing winds along the entire east coast and across the central belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow and as far west as Greenock from the early hours of Wednesday could be changed to red for extreme weather in certain areas.

"I also encourage employers to be as flexible as possible with their staff, allowing them to stay safe and avoid travel".

"You must avoid risky areas and follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities".

"I would urge parents to continue to check school notices with their local authorities before making any decisions on travel".

The extreme weather has seen health boards cancel non-essential operations and outpatient appointments on Thursday and Friday, while NHS 24 has described its operations as being "stretched".

"An amber warning means there is a real possibility that vehicles and drivers will become stranded - something that we have already seen happen during this period of snow. That means a high likelihood of a high impact so that could be not just treacherous but frankly unsafe if you travel".

Virgin Trains said the route between Carlisle and Scotland is closed, with no trains or replacement buses running.

Other major routes also faced disruption, with the M876 closed and reports of minor accidents on some roads.

Flights were also disrupted, with Glasgow Airport announcing that it will be closed until 3pm on Thursday, and Edinburgh Airport closed until midday.

Nearly 30 councils, including Edinburgh City Council, Glasgow City Council and Fife Council, have closed their schools for a second day.

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ScotRail tweeted: "There will be no train services in the red weather warning area tonight, or first thing tomorrow morning".

The SPFL announced that Wednesday night's games in the Ladbrokes Premiership - Celtic v Dundee, Hibernian v Hamilton Academical, Motherwell v Aberdeen - have been postponed.

The motorway, which was covered by the red weather warning, became gridlocked during the afternoon when it was hit by heavy snow.

"Long delays and cancellations on bus, rail and air travel are expected".

The services used its 4x4 vehicles to deliver the supplies on the snow-bound road.

Giving a forecast for Wednesday and Thursday north of the border, Met Office meteorologist Aidan McGivern said: 'With the snow coming increasingly aligned into bands accompanied by strong winds there is the risk of blizzards and the risk of really significant snow accumulations building up - 5cm to 10cm widely (in the amber area) with 15cm to 25cm locally and the potential for the hills to see 40cm of snowfall building up by the end of Thursday.

Forecasters said some communities could be cut off overnight on Wednesday as up to 40cm (15.7in) of snow was expected to fall by the morning.

This is the first red alert for snow in Scotland under the new warning system. Widespread damage, travel and power disruption and risk to life is likely.

This is only the ninth red warning issued in the United Kingdom since 2011 for any kind of weather.

There has only been one other red snow warning before in the United Kingdom, for south Wales in 2013.

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