Friday, 26 February 2010


It’s snowing in Scotland, it’s snowing in Norway. In Scotland, they’re fed up of the white stuff. In Norway, I can’t even see out of the window for white stuff. In some areas of Scotland, no-one has seen a blade of grass since 19th December. In Norway, the same is true. In both countries, record levels of snow have fallen and stayed on the ground for weeks and weeks. In both countries, spring is just a distant memory.

But, there is a big fat difference. In Scotland hundreds of schools are shut for the umpteenth time. In Norway, we have yet to have a ‘snow day’ when schools are shut. In Scotland the economy suffers again with a good day’s work being hampered. In Norway, everyone calmly gets on with building a successful nation. In Scotland, too many motorists are stuck on the roads, some having spent a night of hell on the A9. In Norway, we all reached work at the normal time. In Scotland, roads are shut, including some of the main ones. In Norway, only a few are deemed to be impassable.

So what would the big fat difference be, I wonder? I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again and again until it sinks in.... WINTER TYRES.

As a driver in this country I am obliged by law to fix winter tyres to my car by a certain date in November. Every car must have both summer and winter tyres. If I prang the car during the winter without my ‘vinterdekker’ on, I am not covered by insurance. That’s a very, very expensive mistake in Norway.

I am stunned at the difference my winter tyres make to my non-posh car’s performance. At home, I’ve often driven in snow, slithering about on city roads or trying to deal with drifts in the countryside. It’s horrible. But here, I have driven for miles on thick ice at an astounding pace, including right across the highest plateau in Europe, with 20 ft high snow-walls on either side, and where the average speed was 60 kph go any slower would be letting the side down, and cause a jam.

The other advantage is nobody really needs a 4x4 vehicle here to deal with snow. In Scotland, when these despised 'Chelsea Tractors' came into their own during the thick snow, their gas-guzzling yuppy reputation was all but forgiven as they gallantly served a snow-bound community in a Dunkirk-like spirit. Over here, I seldom see a 4x4.

Every holder of a Norwegian Driving Licence will have completed a winter driving course...these drivers know how to drive on snow and ice. For those in the remotest of places, they can go one further by fixing ‘piggdekk’, tyres with metal studs....brilliant in snow, although they chew up the road if ever bare tarmac should dare to appear. And when it gets really tough, you can always resort to snow-chains.

I know that this winter is exceptional.But it is as exceptional for this southerly part of Norway as it is for Scotland. Two winters ago, all we had was months of rain, and our winter tyres saw the snow only once, but even then, their capacity to cope with wetness was far greater than their summer equivalent. The question is, in the life-time of one car based in Scotland, how many days over a number of winters will snow affect the roads? I bet the answer would mean an investment in extra tyres would easily pay off.

I don’t often freak my frock over cars, and if anyone compares me to that Clarkson person after this, I will not allow them in my vehicle. However, I’ve already bored several Scots into a coma over this. As I see the chaos on the Scottish roads, and think of the cost to our nation in terms of lost working days, lost revenue, missed school days, missed appointments and endless other additional stresses, I feel the need to keep harping on.

I’m away for a wee drive to calm myself down.


  1. Having just came down from the hills of Central Norway today, I can only say we would have gotten nowhere without them. Winter tyres would indeed save our country money in lost revenue due to snow days and also face - a local Norwegian was smirking when we discussed that Scotland too had a lot of snow and was struggling to cope! But the question is, will Scotland learn from this? I too have bored my friends and family back home about the use of these wonderful things....