A progress meeting was held in Portree on Saturday to discuss any news.
Last Saturdays large demonstration was discussed, along with any other ideas for future events. Turning up and refusing to pay is all very well, but new ideas and twists keeps it fresh in the news.
It appears that the police are getting a bit tired with turning up and cautioning people. before, you were asked if you were going to pay, pass through the barrier, and then charged. Last week the police asked the driver if they would pay, they said no, and they were charged - all without actually going through the toll plaza. This did speed things up for them, but some people argued that they were not given the option to turn round and not pass through the barrier, and they were charged without actually passing through.
One woman, who was an Australian, gave her address in Australia. The policeman then had to go and phone the Procurator Fiscal for advice. She was allowed to continue as long as she also gave an address in the UK. She did point out that she believes there is still an extradition treaty between UK and Australia, well, at least in one direction.. :-) The police said unofficially to SKAT that if any foreign nationals were wanting to do a non-payment run, that it would be easier if they had a UK address to give them, as if they had no UK address, they could technically be taken into custody to appear at Court the following day.
More evidence of tourists arriving, seeing the price, and turning back has been emerging. People obviously think differently between paying a fiver for a ferry and for a bridge. A letter from a group of climbers up in Croy (outside Inverness) to SKAT said that the bridge has now put them off coming to Skye to climb, they now go elsewhere, and that they know of other groups that have now stopped.
We are trying to gather evidence to present to the Scottish Tourist Board, to show that the bridge and excessive tolls is having a detrimental effect on tourism, even at this time of year. This will be multiplied a hundredfold come summer.
Bill Lawson, from the NEC, wrote to give his and his members support (along with a cheque), and asked to be informed when the next 'Freedom Run' across the bridge is being held as there are number of people down in the central belt who wish to come up and take part.
Gavin Scott-Moncrief, one of the Highland councillors and founder member of SKAT, gave us some interesting news. As most people in Scotland probably know, the M74 is busy being upgraded to full motorway from Glasgow to Carlisle. One of the extensions is to be done by a private company (like the Skye bridge). The Government are to put in place on that stretch of road a 'shadow' toll. That is, the Government will install sensors to amount of traffic using the road, and pay the company so much per vehicle each year until the road is paid off.
So if they can do it elsewhere in Scotland, why not the Skye bridge??
A large demonstration is also planned for Boxing Day. This will cost the police a LOT in overtime (we believe they will get Double Time for that day :-) ) Also, try and arrange a Santa with sleigh, etc. to arrive on Christmas Eve and refuse to pay (they'll probably let him through though, there's nothing about sleighs on the price board!)
The police have unofficially told us that it is better if we can get more individuals to get one charge against them , rather than the same group of people building up several charges each. This is more likely to put pressure on the Procurator Fiscal than the number of charges themselves.
Wolfstone have offered a SKAT benefits gig in January, they also refused to pay their tolls when they arrived on the island the other week for a gig in Portree! They have been given free SKAT t shirts to wear on stage to help publicise our cause.
The new Highland Council are due to meet around the 24th November to vote on supporting the abolition of tolls. This council has many new members compared to the council that voted for the bridge a few years ago. They look set for voting in favour. A public meeting will be held a couple of days beforehand with the councillors, community council representatives, etc. all personally invited (including Mr Noble...)
If anyone out there is interested in coming up one weekend to take part in an organised Freedom Run, SKAT will also be arranging accommodation and a ceilidh when that lot come up from the Central Belt to take part. Anyone who wants to take part, but is apprehensive, a 'seasoned' SKATter will accompany them if they wish during the run.
Any letters from people who would no longer come up here on holiday due to the bridge would be appreciated as it can be used to get the support of the Scottish Tourist Board.
Copyright © Ray Shields, 1996.
Most recent revision, 15 February 1996.