Winter service policy

First published

18 Jan 2022

Last updated

18 Jan 2022


The Winter Service forms an integral part of the management and maintenance of Stirling Council’s road network. Stirling Council, by virtue of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, has a statutory duty to take such steps as it considers reasonable to prevent snow and ice or indeed the consequences of any other weather condition endangering the safe passage of vehicular and pedestrian traffic over the Councils public roads.

The intention of this duty is not that Stirling Council will take immediate and simultaneous steps to clear/treat every road whenever ice formations or snow accumulations, floods, fallen trees or other impediments exist. To do so would be impossible and beyond the limit of the resources available and, indeed, this is recognised by the Courts. The Council therefore prepares a plan of action, setting out how it intends to treat ice and snow in a reasonable and logical manner. Flooding events and the management of flooding is also covered by the action plan that was initially agreed by Stirling Council in February 2007.

In order to deal efficiently and effectively with Winter Service delivery, operations need to be planned in a systematic manner and it is essential that a policy and procedures, with clearly defined priorities, is established. The objective is to provide a Winter Service that will permit the safe movement of all road users, including pedestrians, whilst minimising effects on the environment and the consequences of adverse weather conditions to the national and local economy and all related influences on inhabitants of the country.

Stirling Council’s Operations Service is responsible for providing the Winter Service, on public adopted Roads and other identified routes, within the Stirling Council area.

The Winter Service comprises the following types of treatment:

  • Precautionary Salt Treatment
  • Treatment of Ice
  • Treatment of Snow
  • Treatment of Hard Packed Snow and Ice

The treatment of the snow and ice conditions is generally carried out in accordance with the Well Managed Highway Infrastructure: A Code of Practice (October 2016) from UK Roads Liaison Group.

The principal Winter Maintenance period covered will extend from Friday 15th October 2021 to the morning of Friday 15th April 2022. However, cover will be available, at short notice, out with this period, should weather conditions so necessitate.

Operational cover will be available on a 24-hour basis, with Operations Services employees covering normal working hours. Duty Officers will work on a two week “lead in” period from mid-October, and a two week ‘lead out’’ period concluding in the first two weeks of April each year, and will respond appropriately if there is adverse conditions forecasted. Outside of these dates should conditions remain adverse, then additional action may be taken.

The Council’s Winter Service, which has been established for the execution and control of winter treatment, for the forthcoming winter period, is set out in this document.


The Council’s policy statement in relation to winter treatment is;

The reduction, as far as reasonably practicable, of the effects of adverse weather conditions on the movement of people and vehicles, to permit safe travel on the more important roads, within the Stirling Council area.

Priorities and standards

The Council will determine the appropriate level of treatment or standards of treatment in accordance with the relative importance of any particular carriageway, footway or footpath in its network.

The Senior Manager of Environment & Place will endeavour to limit the level of expenditure provided in the annual revenue budget. However, prevailing weather conditions will determine the actual level of expenditure. The Senior Manager of Environment & Place will provide regular updates, to the Council, of the actual expenditure incurred.

Winter period

The Council will provide a Winter Service for a period of at least 25 weeks from 15th October 2021 to 15th April 2022.

Carriageway treatments

Carriageways will receive treatment based on the following priority category:

a. Motorways, Trunk Roads and Routes which Cross Council Boundaries

Scottish Executive provides a Winter Service for trunk roads and motorways, which run through the Council area.

BEAR Scotland, the current Term Contractors carry out treatments on the A9, A82, A84 & A85, M9 (Keir Roundabout South) and the M80 which includes any interchange, roundabouts and slip roads. (Telephone Number 0800 587 1107).

Stirling Council have agreements with each adjacent local authority to ensure that arrangements at the road boundary of the Council is dealt with in the most efficient and cost effective manner. This may result in other authorities carrying out Winter Services within Stirling Council area and Stirling operations working outside its boundaries. Each arrangement is covered by a Memorandum of Understanding between each authorities.

b. Priority 1 Carriageway Routes

  1. All routes which have a cumulative average daily flow (both ways) of greater than 800 vehicles per day.
  2. Where a route includes a passenger bus service the value of any bus will be considered to be the equivalent of 40 vehicles. (Road priorities may change from winter to winter or within any one winter depending on changes in bus service.)
  3. A route to Emergency Services establishments. Such establishments include continuously manned police stations, fire stations, ambulance garages and hospitals providing accident, emergency, acute and/or maternity services.
  4. A route to each primary and secondary school from the nearest Priority 1.
  5. Park and Ride bus routes on operational days only. Includes bus-turning areas in respective parks but not the rest of the car parking area.
  6. Cross-boundary treatment routes with daily average flows (both ways) greater than 500 vehicles per day.
  7. All roads with an “A” Class designation shall be treated as a Priority 1 route irrespective of traffic volumes.
  8. A special arrangement is in place for the A821 between David Marshall Lodge and the Loch Achray hotel. The arrangements are set out in an operational plan which included consultation with the Police should this road require to be closed

These routes shall normally receive precautionary salt treatment between 5.30am and midnight and;

  • Clearance of snow accumulations 24 hours per day.
  • The treatment of ice formations 24 hours per day.

The roads treated to priority 1 standard are set out in the route maps that form part of this document.

(Where the cumulative number of vehicles is within 5% of the threshold value then a 5 day (Weekday) average will be used to determine the winter service priority.)

c. Priority 2 Routes

These routes will comprise of roads where the 24 hour cumulative daily average flow (both ways) is greater than 600 vehicles.

These routes will only receive precautionary salting, and any treatment of ice or snow when a specific instruction to do so is given by the Duty Manager, who has to be satisfied that the following criteria are met:

  1. The general outlook established from forecasts, other meteorological information, Icelert trends etc. indicate that the prevailing ice and/or snow conditions are likely to continue for as period over 24 hours.
  2. That the treatment of priority 2 routes would not be detrimental to the level of Service required on priority 1 routes.

d. Priority 3 Routes

These are the identified Tertiary Routes where the cumulative daily average (both ways) is greater than 400 vehicles per day.

A route through, or in and out of, each Council car park, where practical. Includes the shortest practical route from a road gritted in any priority group, e.g. Station Road for Station Car Park, Bridge of Allan.

  1. These routes will only be treated in exceptional weather conditions. Treatment will require authorisation by the Senior Manager of Environment & Place, or their nominated representative.
  2. After a period of 72 hours of adverse weather, and a 2-day weather forecast predicting continuing severe adverse wintry conditions, the Senior Manager of Environment & Place will authorise the treating of priority 3 routes.

e. Priority 4 Routes (all other routes, including residential cul-de-sacs)

  1. The remainder of the public road network, priority being given to locations of difficult junctions, gradients, bends or short, sharp incline, together with reasonable lengths of carriageway adjacent to these specific problems.
  2. These routes will only be treated in very exceptional weather conditions. Treatment will require authorisation by the Senior Manager of Environment & Place, or their nominated representative.
  3. The treatment of all priorities (1 to 4) will result in significant resources being deployed, at substantial cost. Only after a period of 120 hours of adverse weather, and a 5-day weather forecast predicting continuing severe adverse wintry conditions, will the Senior Manager of Environment & Place authorise the treatment of priority 4 routes.
  4. In general terms it is unlikely that resources will be available for the vast majority of priority 4 routes and other arrangements including salt bins will be considered for these routes

Notes on the interpretation of the Policy on Carriageways:

  1. All routes, with the exception of those within Priority 4, have been clearly established and will be listed under their priority categories on the route cards/maps for each gritters’ area.
  2. Particularly in housing areas, or car parks, it may not be practical to treat completely to plan, for example, if the weather conditions dictate treatment at a time when considerable numbers of vehicles are parked. If this occurs, instructions may be issued to take the first realistic and practical opportunity to return to these areas or to send in smaller back-up gritters.
  3. On all occasions, especially in adverse weather conditions, the highest or higher priority 1 routes will receive treatment prior to any activity on Priority 2 or 3 routes There may result in activity on only Priority 1 routes
  4. Following consultation with the Duty Manager the Council will seek to bring in additional resources for back-up gritters to be mobilised if conditions deteriorate.
  5. It may be that to take the shortest way between parts of its route, a gritter may traverse a road of lesser priority than that currently being treated. Salt will NOT be spread on such occasions but ploughing will be permitted. This also applies from the gritters’ parking area to a gritted route.
  6. The Council will in general not treat individual properties including for example farm access, tourist facilities and premises. However, in extreme weather consideration will be given to areas where essential services are provided including water, electricity and gas supplies.
  7. Where in cases of a public emergency, sudden illness or injury either domestic or related to an incident occur the Council will liaise with the emergency services for the necessary roads will be treated or cleared as necessary but purely on a case by case basis. Where routine medical arrangements are affected it will be necessary for the individuals affected to make their own decisions on whether to travel. Additional resources will not be provide for such circumstances.
  8. The same criteria will apply to the accesses to cemeteries and to churches in the case of funeral services. Other types of church service will not be aided. Access to the home of the immediate bereaved family may be provided only where gradients or geometry problems exist.
  9. Only requests by Police Scotland to allow access to accidents for emergency vehicles, will be responded to.
  10. Notification, by Police Scotland, of icy or snow conditions will be checked by a Duty Supervisor before responding.
  11. The safety of the gritter operation will be considered prior to any activity being undertaken.
  12. Requests by commercial organisations for earlier treatment due to incoming or outgoing deliveries will not be responded to.
  13. It is an unfortunate consequence of snow ploughing that a windrow of snow may be left across driveways and side roads. This may be impenetrable to light vehicles. However, it is not practical for the windrow to be cleared by the Council without adversely affecting the policy priority treatments.
  14. As a result of this policy some categories of road and facilities will The Winter Service will NOT be provided at some facilities including
    - Old Peoples establishments or lunch clubs.
    - Nursery or Education establishments other than primary or secondary schools.
    - Other bus routes, school taxis or post bus routes.
    - Un-adopted roads.
    In these situations owners/occupiers should make their own arrangements

Footway treatment

Treatment of ice conditions on footways, and footpaths, will only be carried out between the times (5.30 to 16.00hrs).

The treatment of footways and footpaths may have to be locally curtailed, due to the obstruction caused by wheelie-bins, on collection days. This situation will be most acute where mini-tractor equipment is used to treat footways. Due to the random nature of this eventuality the Council will only return once the wheelie-bins have been removed from the footways to carry out the required treatment.

a. Priority F1A – This priority relates to ice formation only

The footways and footpaths to be treated in the following sequence.

  1. Those immediately outside shops in urban, community or village shopping centres, where a minimum of three essential premises such as food shops, Post Offices etc. exist.
  2. Steps and ramps to underpasses and footbridges together with any associated footpaths.
  3. A connecting footway from the above shopping areas to nearby and identified public building. The connecting footway must be used, by the public, on a regular and predicable basis. Public buildings are those providing a primary and intensive service to the public during the majority of the day. This would include hospitals, health centres, police stations, libraries, local authority offices and post offices.
  4. Those immediately outside individual food shops and post offices in urban, community or village shopping centres.
  5. Adopted footways within sheltered housing or residential home complexes for the elderly.

b. Priority F1B – This priority relates to snow conditions

  1. Footways and footpaths will be treated in the following sequence, should resources permit.
  2. Those listed in Priority F1A (i to iii).
  3. One footway along Priority 1 carriageways within built-up areas, which best serves pedestrian traffic and/or serves the most, premises.
  4. Footways providing a pedestrian route to residential old peoples’ homes or sheltered housing complexes, from the nearest treated footway.
  5. Standing areas at bus stops.
  6. Those immediately outside individual food shops and post offices in urban, community or village shopping centres.
  7. Adopted footways within sheltered housing or residential home complexes for the elderly.

Footways and footpaths will be cleared, when snow exists unless specific information indicates that a thaw will take place before 8.00am.

c. Priority F2 – This priority relates to ice or snow and comprises the remaining footway/footpath network.

These will only be treated in very exceptional weather conditions and when resources permit. Treatment will require authorisation by the Duty Manager.

Note: Link footpaths will not be treated where alternative, albeit longer footway, routes are available.

Notes on the interpretation of the Policy for Footways and Footpaths

  1. Within any Priority, categories of footway/footpath will be dropped from treatment in reverse order if, and for as long as conditions so dictate and whilst the principal routes are being dealt with. Every effort will be made to avoid this eventuality.
  2. On occasions, during adverse weather conditions, only the highest of higher priority routes will be treated. There may be times when only Priority F1A routes and the most important pedestrian links, within the F1B list, will be treated.
  3. In snow conditions it is imperative that an early start is made to prevent hard packing by pedestrians. Authorisation, by the Duty Manager, for salt and/or grit will be required if packing occurs. Easily accessed sources of grit may have to be established.
  4. In pedestrian areas, where gritting equipment can take access, it should do so with due care.
  5. Pedestrian areas, within shopping centres, which gritting equipment cannot reach or where street furniture screens part of the footway, only 2m widths, outside each frontage and limited crisscrossing tracks will receive treatment.
  6. Notwithstanding the descriptions given within each Priority, a footway route would usually be provided in preference to that of a footpath, even though it may be of greater length.
  7. The connecting footway must be used, by the public, on a regular and predicable basis. Public buildings are those providing a primary and intensive service to the public during the majority of the day. This would include hospitals, health centres, police stations, libraries, local authority offices and post offices.

Salt bins

The Council will provide salt bins, for the storage of 50/50 salt/grit mix. Bins will be placed at various identified locations, throughout the Council area. . Bins will be provided, as follows:

  1. The bins are for the storage of 50/50 salt/grit mix for use on public roads only. These bins will be placed at locations of identified difficulties e.g. where a gradient of 1 in 17 or steeper exists.
  2. 50/50 Salt/grit mix will be replenished during or following spells of adverse weather conditions, as soon as resources allow.
  3. Bins have been provided only at locations, which are identified, but to which a vehicle can access for ease of filling.
  4. Bins may be provided for a footway or footpath, where particularly treacherous physical conditions exist. It will be located, for ease of filling, adjacent to a carriageway.
  5. Bins will not generally be provided adjacent to Priority 1 gritting routes, in car parks or for internal use by the Council or any other public or private property, such as, schools, parks, hospitals, old people’s homes etc. They will not be placed specifically outside old people’s homes. Salt bins will not be provided on established footpath tractor routes.
  6. A bin may, however, be placed on a Priority 1 carriageway route where difficult geometry may require the additional availability of salt for the public to use.
  7. A bin will be provided at underpasses and footbridges, provided a location can be found that will limit the public use of the salt on adjacent roads and footways.


Community salt bins will be provided to communities that are not served by existing salt bin provision and do not meet salt bin provision criteria. These are generally communities where gradient and geometric difficulty is not an issue. Locations of community salt bins will be identified through local community resilience plans and coordinated via the Emergency Planning team. These will be located at strategic locations where there is suitable safe access and egress for the delivery and collection of salt. A community salt bin may be provided for each area up to a maximum of two per 1 sq. kilometer.

  1. The bins are for the storage of 50/50 salt/grit mix for use on public roads and footpaths only.
  2. 50/50 Salt/grit mix will be replenished during or following spells of adverse weather conditions, as soon as resources allow.


Salt/Grit piles would be placed in rural road verges once a severe weather warning has been issued. Salt/grit piles would be placed predominately on bends, junctions or steep sections of the adopted road network as local self-help facilities.

  1. The salt/grit piles are for use on public roads and footpaths only.
  2. 50/50 salt/grit mix will be replenished during or following spells of adverse weather conditions, as soon as resources allow.

Notes on the interpretation of the Policy regarding Salt Bins

  1. The bins will be checked and topped-up on a regular basis, with further inspection and replenishment taking place after each spell of adverse weather.
  2. While every reasonable effort will be made to keep bins topped up during periods of adverse weather, this will only be practicable when resources are available.
  3. 50/50 Salt/grit mix contained in the bins is for the use of the public on public carriageways and footway/footpaths only. It is not for use on private driveways, accesses or paths or any other unadopted carriageways or footways.
  4. Bins will not be placed specifically outside old peoples’ establishments or lunch clubs, etc.

Performance reporting

The Service is developing a range of performance indicators for the delivery of the Winter Service. These will be reported through the Council’s Bulletin at regular intervals during the winter period. The following are indicative indicators which will form the core of our performance reporting:

  1. Objective: Total amount of salt used to date.
    PI: Total tonnage of salt used per winter maintenance season.
  2. Objective: Average cost to salt per kilometer.
    PI: Cost per winter maintenance season.

Use of external assistance to deal with severe snow conditions

Stirling Council Operations Service is a member of the Tayforth Machinery Ring. The Tayforth Machinery Ring is a non-profit making member owned co-operative, formed in 1989. Its primary purpose is to encourage more efficient joint use of agricultural equipment and labour mainly between its farming and non-farming members. Contracts and supplies are arranged between members in Fife, Tayside and centrally located Councils in Scotland. Stirling Council can call upon this arrangement for additional resources such as excavators, loaders, front and rear mounted snow ploughs during times of extreme weather.

Stirling Council will supply snow ploughs to local farmers, located throughout the Council area, with suitable tractor units and who are members of the Tayforth Machinery Ring. Each farmer will sign an agreement to ensure they maintain the plough in good order at their expense. The ploughs will be subject to an annual inspection by a Tayforth Machinery Ring representative, who will provide feedback on results and any replacements required. The inspection sheets will be audited by a Stirling Council representative annually. In return the Council will hire the services of the farmer plus tractor and plough through the arrangements of the Tayforth Machinery Ring to plough snow from roads during extreme conditions. The hire arrangements will only be instructed if the Winter Service Duty Manager has been notified of impending severe weather warnings of snow from the Met Office and/or the Duty Manager considers that the extreme adverse weather will impact on the ability of the service to clear sections of the road network.

Mutual aid - agreement with Clackmannanshire and Falkirk Councils

During rock salt shortages, extreme winter events or during periods where operational difficulties occur Stirling Council will work with Clackmannanshire and Falkirk Councils to share resources when demand and resources allow. Assistance will only be provided under this agreement if authorised by the Senior Manager of Environment & Place or their nominated representative.

Public holidays

During the Christmas and New Year Public Holidays, when priority route treatment will be carried out on a call-out only basis, unless weather conditions warrant there will be no pre-arranged stand-to or patrols. The Operations Manager will circulate details, in early December, of the rostering arrangements for the Christmas & New Year period.

Winter decision making

As well as formal training from our weather forecaster, Duty Managers and Duty Officers will refer to Well Maintained Highways – Code of Practice Oct 2016 as additional guidance. The following notes and matrix give an insight into the decision making process for carriageways:

Decision making procedure

A suggested procedure for decision making, taking into account various operational scenarios is given in Table H2.

Training of decision making and management staff is important in making a rational decision. Although there is no formal qualification for Winter Service decision making and management available, staff should have a number of years‟ experience and have received a minimum level of training in operational and weather forecasting methods. Authorities should also conduct periodic exercising to test plans for responding to severe weather events.

Table H2 – Decision Matrix Guide

Road Surface Temperature Precipitation Predicted Road Conditions Predicted Road Conditions Predicted Road Conditions
    Wet Wet Patches Dry
May fall below 1°C No rain
No hoar frost
No fog
Salt before frost Salt before frost (see note a) No action likely, monitor weather (see note a)
Expected to fall below 1°C No rain
No hoar frost
No fog
Salt before frost Salt before frost (see note a) No action likely, monitor weather (see note a)
Expected to fall below 1°C Expected hoar frost
Expected fog
Salt before frost Salt before frost (see note b) Salt before frost (see note b)
Expected to fall below 1°C Expected rain BEFORE freezing Salt after rain stops (see note c) Salt after rain stops (see note c) Salt after rain stops (see note c)
Expected to fall below 1°C Expected rain DURING freezing Salt before frost, as required during rain and after rain stops (see note d) Salt before frost, as required during rain and after rain stops (see note d) Salt before frost, as required during rain and after rain stops (see note d)
Expected to fall below 1°C Possible rain
Possible hoar frost
Possible fog
Salt before frost Salt before frost Monitor weather conditions
Expected snow   Salt before snow fall Salt before snow fall Salt before snow fall

The decision to undertake precautionary treatments should be, if appropriate, adjusted to take account of residual salt or surface moisture.
All decisions should be evidence based, recorded and require continuous monitoring and review.


(a) Particular attention should be given to the possibility of water running across carriageways and other running surfaces e.g. off adjacent fields after heavy rains, washing off salt previously deposited. Such locations should be closely monitored and may require treating in the evening and morning and possible other occasions.

(b) When a weather warning contains reference to expected hoarfrost, considerable deposits of frost are likely to occur. Hoarfrost usually occurs in the early morning and is difficult to cater for because of the probability that any salt deposited on a dry road too soon before its onset, may be dispersed before it can become effective. Close monitoring is required under this forecast condition which should ideally be treated just as the hoarfrost is forming. Such action is usually not practicable and salt may have to be deposited on a dry road prior to and as close as possible to the expected time of the condition. Hoarfrost may be forecast at other times in which case the timing of salting operations should be adjusted accordingly.

(c) If, under these conditions, rain has not ceased by early morning, crews should be called out and action initiated as rain ceases.

(d) Under these circumstances rain will freeze on contact with running surfaces and full pre-treatment should be provided even on dry roads. This is a most serious condition and should be monitored closely and continuously throughout the danger period.

(e) Weather warnings are often qualified by altitudes in which case differing action may be required from each depot.

(f) Where there is any hint of moisture being present, a pessimistic view of the forecast should be taken when considering treatment to negatively textured surfaces.

Supplementary guidance from NWSRG Section Seven – Winter Service Decision Making (2020) provides information on consistent decision making. This can be downloaded from

Additional arrangements with community groups

The Winter Service policy does not prioritise the treatment of many residential and side roads or footways. Indeed, during severe weather, there can be periods when most or all resources are targeted at the main routes and it may not be possible to clear the snow routes or the lower priority areas for several days. To help fill this gap, the Council would seek to engender a sense of civic responsibility for local communities to act in their locality.

Salt bins are located throughout the area in key locations allowing residents to distribute salt as required.

Community groups may have resources that can sometimes be deployed during adverse conditions. Assistance is available for preparing in advance for periods of adverse conditions, and feedback is used in reviewing service provision. Assistance may be offered and provided to these groups by placement of grit bins at the request of a Community Group subject to safe sites being identified. Community bins are the responsibility of the Community Group.

Delivery of salt supplies by request of Community Groups for use by the community locally and in community bins grit bins.

In advance of each winter season the Community Groups are contacted to establish if they have any new requests for grit bins and how much salt they need delivering at the start of the season. Additional deliveries can be made during the season as resources allow. Further supplies may be available during the season.

Elected members have contact with their local communities and during adverse conditions the
information that they receive is of value in evolving provision of winter service. This information is used and assessed during each annual review that is carried out before the start of the next season.

Based on national guidance issued by the Scottish Government advice is available to householders and communities on Clearing Snow and Ice: