Andy Flurry and Mary Queen of Salt: craze for naming Scottish gritters goes global

It started as a winter safety campaign for school children living in the Scottish Highlands but has since captured the urgent need for escapism during lockdown.

Hundreds of thousands of people are now following the daily journeys of nearly 100 Scottish gritter lorries and snowploughs, vehicles luxuriating in names such as Spreddie Van Halen, Sir Andy Flurry, Skid Vicious, Gritallica and Mary Queen of Salt.

With much of Scotland gripped by the heaviest winter snow since the “beast from the east” three years ago, gritters are working round the clock on the country’s motorways and trunk roads, their every mile visible on an online tracker.

Similar to the vicarious thrill of trainspotting from the warmth of your front room, the website allows fans to track Salt Disney heading up the A77; Licence to Chill trundling slowly through East Lothian or Sled Zeppelin inching through Argyll.

Sir Chris Hoy, the cyclist and the UK’s most successful Olympian, was delighted when a gritter in the south-west was christened Sir Grits Hoy.

News of the tracker, set up five years ago by Transport Scotland, a government agency, has spread worldwide. It has a small fanbase in California, and became more famous in the US when an ecstatic TikTok user, @chibichan_777, spotted that one gritter was called Gritney Spears.

In one 24-hour period a week ago, the tracker site had more than 110,000 hits and has attracted interest from radio stations in the US and Russia. By contrast, it usually has about 700,000 hits across a 365-day period, excluding the summer months when the tracker is offline and the gritters shuttered away.

The naming trend has taken off just in time for the vicious Arctic weather that has gripped much of Scotland this month.

Amey, the contractor which runs truck road gritters in the south-west of Scotland, is naming another 50 of its gritters every weekday this winter after a public appeal last year garnered 1,200 suggestions.

Many were themed to mark the death of Sir Sean Connery, regarded as the most famous James Bond.

The new names include: Coldfinger, You Only Grit Twice, and, after the Ayrshire town, TroonRaker.

BEAR Scotland, the contractor that covers the remaining three-quarters of the Scottish mainland and which has been heavily involved in the trend, has 56 lorries with names.

It has a further 100 vehicles as yet unnamed, but plans to reopen its schools competition after the lockdown ends.