Storm Arwen: Direction of wind behind damage in Scotland, says Deputy First Minister

30 November 2021, 23:06

John Swinney on Storm Arwen

Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

The severity of damage in Scotland by Storm Arwen - which still sees more than 16,000 households without power, and 1500 without a water supply - was due to the direction of the wind.

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Deputy First Minister John Swinney told MSPs that Scotland's infrastructure was designed to "handle incidents from the prevailing wind direction" and Storm Arwen had blown on a different trajectory.

Speaking in Holyrood he said that although Scotland regularly experiences severe winter storms "the high winds generally associated with them are from a southerly to north-westerly direction. However, on this occasion, the story tracked down the North Sea bringing very strong north to north-easterly winds across east coastal areas".

He added: "That Storm Arwen gave rise to very strong winds from an unusual direction exacerbated the severity of the incident. Met officials identified a few occasions in the 1970s and 80s when widespread strong north to north-easterly winds have been recorded but these only gave gusts around 60 to 70 mph, compared with the damaging gusts of around 80 to 90 mph experienced" at the weekend.

Read more: Storm Arwen: Thousands spend fourth night without power amid 'catastrophic damage'

Read more: 60 punters face third night trapped in Britain’s highest pub after Storm Arwen snow dump

Storm Arwen arrives in Scotland

He said damage from the wind had been compounded by heavy snow and a sharp drop in temperatures and that "recovery will take some time".

"Our priority right now is to get power restored to homes and to provide support to those affected by the peak of the disruption. I’m informed that 16.763 customers continue to be without power. These individuals are located in the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Angus and Perthshire.

"Scottish and Southern Energy Networks has deployed over 500 engineers and support staff to repair widespread and extensive damage to its network and support customers, ScottishPower are similarly deploying significant resource and both companies are drawing additional mutual aid and resources from across the UK, but given the severity of the storm across the UK, that has been available later in the incident than would normally have been the case."

However Scottish Conservative Liam Kerr said people were astounded by the government's "appalling lack of planning" given the weather warnings "days before the storm hit" and asked "why was there such a monumental failure of planning".

A tree blocking a road in Edinburgh during Storm Arwen

Mr Swinney said Mr Kerr's question "didn't characterise the gravity of the situation appropriately" and while the government had no control over the power companies, he said they had worked "extraordinarily hard to reconnect 184,500 people who had been disconnected by a storm of incredible ferocity".

Condolences were extended by Scottish Labour's Colin Smyth to those affected, but he said there was frustration from those without power and water and with no idea when these issues would be resolved and asked if all vulnerable residents had been contacted directly.

Mr Swinney said power companies were moving "as fast as they can" to restore supplies.

He added: "The issues that are being wrestled with are of a greater degree of complexity because of the damage caused which makes it difficult to give a prediction.

"On water much of this depends on getting power to installations, electricity is at the heart of that issue as well. Power companies and local authorities are in regular dialogue and have established lists of vulnerable people to contact."

Scottish Greens energy and environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell, who experienced a three-day power cut said it had been "frustrating to get contradictory and confusing rolling advice for four days" and said energy companies needed to look at "how they can improve forecasting advice and also send clear information about customers rights to compensation and alternative accommodation".