THOUSANDS of workers have been left stranded on North Sea oil and gas platforms for the past three weeks because of gale-force storms.

Airport officials on ­Shetland described the ­situation as unprecedented, with the winds lashing the East Shetland Basin where the rigs are based.

Bristow Helicopters, who ferry workers on and off the rigs, has been unable to ­operate services, describing it as the worst spell of extended bad weather for several years.

Colin Jones, base manager at Scatsta airport, said: "We take every opportunity to operate when it is safe to do so but unfortunately we have no control over the weather. It is unprecedented in recent years to have such consistent winds from the south east in the basin."

Last summer when fog disrupted offshore flights, oil companies used oil field supply boats to ferry workers to and from the platforms. However, with seas as high as 12 metres over the past three weeks, sea transport is not an option.

Serco NorthLink cancelled both north and southbound sailings of their ferries between Lerwick and Aberdeen last night.

The company hopes the ferry Hjaltland will be able to sail south from Lerwick on Saturday and go on to dry dock for two weeks, during which only the Hrossey will serve the isles.

Elsewhere, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has cautioned those living in Argyll and Bute, Ayrshire and parts of west central Scotland to prepare for floods this afternoon.

Lamlash Cordon, Arran, and Largs town centre will be affected along with Dumbarton, Greenock and Port Glasgow. Similar warnings have also been issued for Helensburgh, Campbeltown, Lochgair and Tarbert.

The Met Office have also given yellow warnings of ice and snow until midday today, with high winds expected until tomorrow morning.

Road users are being warned to be extra vigilant following a three-vehicle accident on the A9, near Drumochter. Nobody was hurt after a car was involved in a collision with a gritter.