Alex Salmond backs Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson

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First Minister Alex Salmond said he has "full confidence" in his transport minister, as the row over the SNP's winter weather response continued.

Stewart Stevenson has accepted responsibility for this week's travel chaos, which saw thousands of people stranded in their cars overnight.

During question time at Holyrood, Mr Salmond apologised for the problems.

But he stressed Scotland was forced to cope with exceptional weather circumstances at the start of the week.

The first minister told MSPs: "I believe the Scottish government should have done much better in terms of the information flow last Monday to people, our citizens, who were caught in the extraordinary conditions.

"The transport minister apologised for that - I follow his apology. We should have done much better in the information flow to help our fellow citizens who were in a position of extremity.

"Improvements in that will be made by this government."

Mr Salmond also insisted: "I have full confidence in Stewart Stevenson as transport minister."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray claimed that, as the chaos ensued, nothing was done to stop traffic joining already blocked motorways, which were not closed sooner, while Mr Stevenson had stated in an interview the roads were clearing when they were not.

Mr Gray asked: "Why is Mr Stevenson still the transport minister?"

The first minister said motorway closures were police operational matters, adding: "Even the Great Gray didn't anticipate the extraordinary combination of weather conditions that people in central Scotland endured last Monday."

He added: "At some point, this chamber will have to recognise that what fell on central Scotland last Monday morning was an extraordinary event of weather conditions."

Other opposition leaders rounded on Mr Salmond over the problems.

The Tories' Annabel Goldie referred to the "Ready Winter" section of the Scottish government website, which she said was urging readers to reduce the worst effects of winter with, "a few simple steps, such as being more aware of the weather forecast, especially weather warnings."

"A pity the transport minister didn't follow his own advice," she added.

Tavish Scott, of the Liberal Democrats, claimed the transport minister had not been forthcoming enough in divulging information on weather warnings.

He asked "Shouldn't the government's contingency planning have ensured that these warnings became clear, unambiguous motoring advice overnight Sunday, early Monday, not to travel in central Scotland?"

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