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Scottish gritters and James Bond puns: a map for your ice only

To clear Scotland’s roads in winter, the local traffic agency employs heavy machinery with punny names. Can you grit and bear it?
gritter
Gritters on the job in and around Glasgow. (Credit: Trunk Road Gritter Tracker, by Traffic Scotland)
Key Takeaways
  • Clearing winter roads is hard work anywhere in the world, but in Scotland, they found a way to make it fun to watch.
  • This live map shows the current location of gritters along Scotland’s trunk roads, many carrying silly names.
  • Puns involving movies, music, and Scottish history are popular sources of names. Many gritters, however, remain nameless — for now.

You don’t give nicknames to your gardening tools. Not unless you’re a very silly person. But go a few sizes bigger, and things change. There is something about utility equipment of a certain magnitude that simply begs for a personalized identifier.

Take for instance the army of gritters that keep Scotland’s roads ice- and snow-free in winter. This live map shows the exact location of those vehicles, along with which parts of the Scottish road network they’ve just gritted. It also shows what those vehicles are called. Since this is Britain, the pull of the pun has proven too hard to resist. This is, after all, the country of Boaty McBoatface.

A Scottish gritter — name unknown — driving through Braemar in Aberdeenshire on January 6, 2022. (Credit: Jane Barlow / PA Images via Getty Images)

At the time of writing, Salt Disney was gritting a stretch of road just south of Prestwick Airport, southwest of Glasgow. Near that city itself, we find Buzz IceClear (after a character from the Toy Story movie franchise), Yes Sir, Ice Can Boogie (a play of words on a 1970s disco hit), and Snowcially Distanced (a more recent, pandemic-inspired reference).

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Around Scotland’s other major city, Edinburgh, we find The Snowclaimers (a pun on famous Scottish band The Proclaimers) and a wintry version of Scotland’s most famous actor, Snow Connery. A bit further north, above the Firth of Forth, another wink to 007: For Your Ice Only.

A bit further south and just outside this frame, there is License to Chill. Bond references are very popular indeed. In operation just outside Stanraer, a city in Scotland’s southwest, we have You Only Grit Ice. And not on the road today but spotted on a previous visit was On Her Majesty’s Slippery Surface — yet another transmogrified movie title.

Some gritters in Edinburgh and environs borrow their nicknames from Bond lore. (Credit: Trunk Road Gritter Tracker by Traffic Scotland)

In all, Traffic Scotland has 213 vehicles available for plowing snow and/or gritting roads. In severe weather conditions, more than half of that total can be deployed at the same time to clear the roads.

The punning tradition is fairly recent. It started back in 2006, when Transport Scotland asked primary school children to help them name the vehicles. And the kids came up with more than just James Bond references. Near Perth, we find Bear Chills, a reference to TV adventurist Bear Grylls, and Ready Spready Go. Further afield, there are musical references, like Gritallica, Spready Mercury, and Gritney Spears; slightly modified names of Scottish heroes, like William Wall-ice and Robert Brrrns; and one named Mr. Plow, after Homer Simpson’s snow-clearing endeavors.

The map provides the current location of all gritters. Vehicles in grey are off duty, parked at the depot and all facing east (on the map at least). The yellow ones are out and about. The icons are oriented to indicate direction of travel. The vehicle trail shows which stretches of road they have treated in the last two hours.

For a live overview of the gritters in operation across the whole of Scotland, go to the Trunk Road Gritter Tracker. (Credit: Trunk Road Gritter Tracker by Traffic Scotland)

You can click on each gritter to see its name. Many, however, do not seem to have names yet. Doubtlessly, Traffic Scotland would appreciate your input. But first, check the search box near the top of the map to see if your suggestion has already been taken. You will just have to come up with something better (or sillier) than Sir Salter Scott, Blizzard of Oz, or I Want to Break Freeze. And yes, somebody beat you to Gritter Thunberg as well.

Strange Maps #1132

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