Scots have been urged to travel only if they need to at Christmas - despite the temporary easing of lockdown restrictions.  

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has reiterated Scottish Government advice that staying put is the best way to help beat the spread of coronavirus, and appealed to people to stay at home.  

His comments come as Transport Scotland said it was setting up a Christmas preparedness group to cope with any bad weather and British Transport Police drafted in extra officers to deal with any festive disruption on the railways.  

Mr Matheson said: “We recognise people have endured a very challenging year and the desire to see our friends and family over the festive period is probably stronger than ever.  

However I would reiterate that just because you are allowed to travel during December 23rd to December 27th, it doesn’t mean you have to. 

"If you feel you can delay catching up and stay local then that could help us eradicate the threat of this virus sooner." 

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Travel restrictions are due to be eased next week, from December 23rd to December 27th, but Scottish Government advice remains that people should avoid all travel between high prevalence and low prevalence areas - in particular travel to or from Scotland and Tier 3 areas in England. 

If people do travel to form a bubble, they are reminded they must follow the travel rules for the area they are staying in when they arrive.   

For example, if travelling to a Level 3 council area in Scotland, once you have arrived and formed your bubble you must avoid non-essential travel outside that area. 

HeraldScotland:

Meanwhile, Transport Scotland has been preparing for any onset of severe weather, with forecasts being regularly updated via the Met Office. 

A record 230 gritters are ready for deployment at 42 depots across Scotland across the trunk road network.  

Operating companies have already carried out more than 2,100 treatments, using over 10,000 tonnes of salt, this winter, with 105,000 tonnes left in stock.   

Traffic Scotland operator manager Douglas Cairns said: "The Traffic Scotland mobile site - my.trafficscotland.org – has up-to-date information on the trunk road network, and the Traffic Scotland Twitter page is updated regularly.  

"Planning your journey will help make sure you reach your destinations in good time, and help everyone stay safe during the festive period.  

"Transport Scotland will monitor the trunk road network from the National Traffic Control Centre in South Queensferry, working closely with key partner agencies including Police Scotland and the Met Office.  

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He added: "Our key message is to ask people to consider carefully whether they need to travel, to check the conditions, and plan ahead.” 

British Transport Police (BTP) have announced extra officers on the rail network over the festive period to ensure the safety of passengers and rail staff following an increase in anti-social behaviour across the network last month.

HeraldScotland:  

BTP Superintendent and Head of Operations in Scotland David Marshall said: “Our officers will continue patrolling the rail network, supporting rail staff in engaging with passengers about the importance of maintaining social distancing and reminding those who are travelling to wear face coverings.  

"We would also urge the public to be respectful to rail staff who have worked throughout the pandemic. "We will not tolerate anti-social behavior on the network and we will be increasing our visibility patrols to ensure the railway remains a safe place to travel."  

He added: "We hope the public will continue to act responsibly and play their part in helping to protect themselves, and each other, by following the guidance and restrictions set out by the Scottish Government, as well as complying with the requirement to wear face coverings.” 

Chief Superintendent Louise Blakelock said: “Although specific guidance is in place between 23rd and 27th December for Christmas bubbles, it is important to remember that significant restrictions will remain in place. 

"We all have a part to play in keeping the roads safe and we urge drivers to remember the dangers of drink or drug driving,  please don't risk it over the festive period."