SCOTLAND is to take another storm battering tomorrow, with more gale-force winds and heavy rain bringing severe disruption to most of the country.

The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning, saying the Central Belt will be hit by gusts of up to 80mph and that transport links such as the Forth Road Bridge and the Erskine Bridge could be affected.

The warning comes after 101mph winds were recorded in Shetland early yesterday and severe conditions in much of northern Scotland left thousands without power.

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The Met Office said that by tomorrow almost all of Scotland would be lashed by strong gusts of wind and rain.

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution said 500 homes in Shetland were without power and it has drafted in engineers from the mainland who are working to restore supplies.

The high winds also caused difficulties for a coastguard helicopter as it evacuated a female patient from the island of Yell to the main island of Shetland.

The helicopter landed at Sumburgh Airport and the patient was transferred to hospital in Lerwick by ambulance.

Shetland Coastguard said the winds were hurricane force yesterday.

So far, the forecast for the start of the New Year weekend is for wet but less windy conditions, weathermen said.

But Transport Minister Keith Brown has already reminded revellers that Scotland's weather is notoriously unpredictable after two extreme winters.

Travellers were warned to check their arrangements on the day and drivers were told to expect localised flooding.

The storm is expected to begin overnight tonight and peak at different times across the country throughout the day

Those planning to fly were hoping for minimum disruption. About 300,000 people are expected to pass through Scottish airports over the next 10 days.

A spokesman for the Met Office said: "Very strong winds will affect northern Britain on Wednesday, including the populated Central Lowlands of Scotland, bringing gusts of 60 to 70mph with 80mph in exposed areas. The public should be aware that this could cause disruption to transport. A vigorous area of low pressure is likely to move eastwards close to northern Scotland on Wednesday.

"For many regions, windiest conditions will occur later in the morning and during the afternoon, whilst over north-east Scotland and the Northern Isles strongest winds are expected during the evening.

"Note also that heavy rain could accompany the very strong winds and parts of Scotland are at risk of localised flooding."

A spokesman for the AA said: "It is not very pleasant. People have been getting a bit of a pasting over the last couple of weeks.

"Drivers should not be complacent. Although we've not had as much snow perhaps, wind and floodwater can be just as dangerous."

"Drivers should check the traffic news before leaving."