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A mum’s terrifying skid on black ice could lead to her local council being sued by dozens of drivers who crashed in Livingston, West Lothian, on the same day.

Debbie Gourlay 46, won an admission from West Lothian Council that their gritters were standing idle in the depot when they should have been out treating the roads.

Solicitor Patrick McGuire of Thompsons Solicitors believes his client Mrs Gourlay and anyone else affected now has strong grounds to sue the council after it admitted a weather forecast was ‘misinterpreted.’

Mr McGuire said: “It is notoriously difficult to successfully sue a council for failing to grit the roads.

“But when Mrs Gourlay and her local councillor raised the issue at a full meeting of West Lothian Council, the Environment Convenor read out a statement admitting the roads should have been gritted that morning.

“I believe we now have a very strong basis for a successful action against the council and that applies to anyone else who crashed on ungritted roads in the area that morning.”

Mrs Gourlay of Muiriston Road in Livingston was driving her children, Stacey, 16, Dean 14, and Grant 11 to school on the morning of January 13 when her car went out of control at a mini roundabout on Muiriston Road West.

She said: “It was an absolute nightmare, and very very frightening.

“I managed to get the car to veer to the right but if it had skidded across the road we would have ploughed into dozens of primary school children who assemble there to walk to school.

“I was a nervous wreck when I realised how close I had come to killing some of those children.

“I was still shaking as I stood outside my car after the crash when two other cars skidded at the same spot. One of them only just missed knocking me down.

“When I phoned the council that morning they said they had already had over 200 complaints, so goodness knows how many crashes there were.”

Although the family escaped serious injury, Stacey and her Mum still feel nervous getting into a car and Mrs Gourlay has been suffering from nightmares and back pain.

The family car was off the road for six weeks while a local garage carried out £2,000 worth of repairs.

After the crash Mrs Gourlay, who runs her own training company, found that weather forecasters had warned of freezing conditions and she and local councillor Lawrence Fitzpatrick raised the matter with the council.

Councillor Fitzpatrick said: “The roads were like a skating rink that morning.

“Mrs Gourlay had petitioned the council to raise her complaint, but before she could speak the Environment Convenor, Robert de Bold, essentially said ‘hands up’ and admitted the roads should have been gritted.

“I believe the gritting service has been hit by cutbacks and the council could be in dereliction of its legal duty of care.”

Mr de Bold’s statement reads:

“At 3.47am a further weather forecast was received which appears to have been misinterpreted to indicate that conditions were appropriate to stand down  (the gritter) patrols. They remained on stand-by in the depot and monitoring was not maintained, as it should have been.

“Investigations indicate an operational failure by those on duty at the time that led to a delayed response to icy road conditions being treated.”  

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