The island home of otter-lover and author Gavin Maxwell was occupied for 24 hours by members of SKAT. The political squat was launched yesterday at 1 p.m. on Eilean Ban, a base for one of the Skye Bridge's pillars, to prevent its sale by the Scottish Office in Glasgow today.
Squat organiser Robbie the Pict claims the auction is a misuse of Scottish taxpayers' money as the island should be given back to the people of Scotland. He claims that the five acre island, which lies halfway beneath the bridge flyover, was sold to Kwik-Fit boss Tom Farmer on the understanding that the island be preserved as an otter sanctuary. However, in the late 1980's the Scottish Office bought the island by compulsory purchase order for the bridge.
Robbie says Gavin Maxwell gave the National Trust for Scotland £10,000 to preserve Eilean Ban against such developments and now the Scottish Office is to auction the island on the open market. Robbie has made a bid of £1 for the island on behalf of the people of Scotland. He says "The Scottish office has no interest in preserving the otter sanctuary aspect, the simply wanted it as a base for the flyover and now they just want to get rid of it". A National Trust spokesman denied that Maxwell had given the money to the trust, but that they did act as feu superior.
Robbie said that the squat had been organised to draw attention to "irregularities in the island's acquisition" and the fact that the bridge was a subject of an investigation by the National Audit Committee and of criminal proceedings against toll non-payers. A Scottish Office spokesman confirmed that the bridge project was been looked at by the National Audit Committee to ensure it was good value for public money as it was the first Private Finance Initiative. He said that no conditions would be attached to the sale of the island.
The auction, which was to have been held today, has been postponed by the Secretary of State for Scotland until further investigations can be made.
Copyright © Ray Shields, 1996.
Most recent revision, 24 April 1996.