Crofters and farmers could be asked to help clear roads in remote areas after the council cut a quarter of its £1.4 million winter roads maintenance budget.
The biggest chunk of savings will result from a reduction in the amount of roads being treated for frost.
The SIC currently treats 96 per cent of its road network once snow has fallen. After members of the environment and transport committee on Monday backed cuts of £300,000 to the “post-treatment” service, the proportion will fall to 65 per cent. Officials point out that is still better than a Scotland-wide average of 59 per cent.
Infrastructure director Phil Crossland stressed that road users would notice no change to the amount of “precautionary” salting and gritting, or to the amount of snow clearance carried out on weekdays.
Gritting on Saturdays is to be reduced to a “Sunday level of service”, meaning only main routes and loop roads will be treated.
Environment and transport committee chairman Allan Wishart said the main impact would be travel delays due to fewer remote, single-track roads being treated. He suggested the agricultural community could step in to help.
He said: “I know in other areas of Scotland now they are engaging the local farmers and lawndowners who have tractors and equipment that can clear side roads [and] access to the main A roads. All these things are part of the mix for looking at as well.”
Mr Crossland’s report to councillors stated that in the last decade, skidding on snow or ice was a factor in over seven per cent of all traffic accidents.
Asked whether road users should be worried about the impact of the cutbacks, Mr Wishart responded: “I think it’s been very carefully looked at, all the main routes are going to continue to be treated.”
Meanwhile, Northern Constabulary is warning motorists to be aware of the dangers associated with using roads in the Highlands and Islands given the area’s “notoriously unpredictable” winter conditions.
“During the winter months, road conditions can be extremely difficult and dangerous,” a police spokeswoman said. “Even the most experienced motorists can find themselves getting into difficulties when the roads are icy.”