Farmers will dig in and clear the city’s roads in bad snow

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Farmers will be put on standby to help clear Edinburgh’s roads during heavy snow.

Talks are taking place between the city council and farmers in the Capital’s more rural areas, such as Balerno, Currie, Ratho, Kirkliston and South Queensferry.

An agreement is expected to be signed within the next two weeks that will mean local farmers will be asked to use their own tractors to help their community get through bouts of severe weather.

Farmers will be signed up as standby private contractors and will be paid for the work they do, at the same rate as private firms that will also be brought in to help clear roads and pavements during heavy snow.

It is hoped that the measure, together with a series of other initiatives, will help to ensure that the city does not grind to a halt if there is another big freeze this winter.

Concerns about insurance and using tractors running on cheaper “red diesel” on public roads have also been addressed this year, meaning farmers who want to voluntarily clear snow will be able to – after the council advised them not to last year.

Nigel Miller, president of the National Farmers Union Scotland, said: “Making use of farmers and farm equipment to help with snow clearing and gritting efforts is a good idea, and certainly something we have seen happening on a voluntary basis in many areas of Scotland during previous winters.

“It is crucial, however, that any issues around insurance and the use of red diesel are dealt with well in advance, in a way that allows farmers to operate their machines for this use with confidence on public roads.

“That being said I’m sure there will be an interest out there, particularly amongst arable farmers in the area who may have equipment that is not in heavy use at that time of year. This sort of scheme could benefit all parties – a welcome additional income stream for farmers, and a helping hand for local communities.”

Under the new initiative farmers will be provided with salt stocks and any necessary equipment that they can use.

Councillor Jason Rust, who represents the Colinton/Fairmilehead and is also convener of the Pentlands Neighbourhood Partnership, said: “Everyone realises that there are problems with council budgets so if this can be done in addition to what the council can do then that is to be welcomed.”

Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city’s environment leader, said: “Our aim is to keep Edinburgh functioning as fully as possible during severe weather.

“We know many residents and businesses across the city region are keen to help support their communities.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com