THE heaviest snowfalls for many years brought traffic to a standstill and shut hundreds of schools across Scotland yesterday, with more weather havoc due today.

Across the country there was traffic chaos, and with more snow expected overnight the Met Office issued an amber “be prepared” warning that lasts well into today. Police Scotland reacted by saying motorists in affected areas should not travel.

The upgrade and the previous 24 hours of chaos led Scottish Government ministers to issue a strong warning to avoid travel.

The amber warning for snow covers Dumfries & Galloway, the western Borders, West Lothian, Falkirk, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Glasgow. It is due to last until this morning but the after-effects of snowfalls will continue throughout the day.

The Met Office’s yellow “be aware” warning for snow and ice will remain in place for most of Scotland until Friday evening, and to add to the potential for disruption, strong gales are expected to hit the country today – a yellow warning for high winds has also been issued lasting until tonight.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted yesterday afternoon: “Due to the @metoffice amber weather warning @policescotland has upgraded its advice in the areas below to DO NOT TRAVEL in the period from 9pm to 5am tomorrow.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Transport Minister Humza Yousaf chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government’s Resilience operation (SGoR) to receive an update on the situation.

After that meeting, Humza Yousaf said the police were upgrading their warning from stage three to stage four. He said: “That in practice means that all travel should be avoided on those parts of the trunk road affected by the amber warning, namely south and south-west Scotland for the duration of the amber warning.”

Police Scotland said: “The stage four warning has been issued as a result of severe snow showers forecasted for these areas overnight and Police Scotland advises that if you do travel, you are likely to experience severe delays of several hours or more.”

Throughout yesterday a spate of accidents took place on Scotland’s roads though there were no reports of fatalities.

Ferry services were cancelled and air travel was hit but the worst affected travellers were motorists on the M74, the main road connecting the west of Scotland with England.

More than 200 people were trapped in their cars for many hours on the motorway which was blocked by snow. Mountain Rescue teams were called in to assist those trapped in their vehicles.

Mat Jackson, 29, a product manager with Siemens, arrived home in Manchester at around 11.30am yesterday – having left Glasgow at 3.20pm on Tuesday.

He said: “Every time gritters went by you thought ‘here we go’ but the snow just came down harder, it was that thick you couldn’t see in front of you.”

Across the country more than 300 schools and nurseries were closed with 40,000 pupils affected. Scottish Borders Council closed all its schools and they are to remain closed today, while 16 secondary schools, 58 primaries and 44 nurseries in the Highlands were shut.