Tonight, SKAT held a public meeting in Portree on the Isle of Skye.
Despite the torrential rain and Rangers football match on the TV, the meeting was well attended with over 90 people there.
Personal invitations had gone out to members of all the Community Councils in Skye & Lochalsh, but Portree Community Council, who were the only CC to refuse to back the SKAT campaign, did not attend. Nether did Sir Ian Noble, or anyone from the Skye Bridge company.
So, with the lack of people who support the excessive toll bridge tolls, the whole meeting was a bit of a mutual admiration society :-) The latest figures from SKAT are that over 400 charges have been issued for non payment of toll to over 200 individuals.
There is a meeting of the new Highland Region council this coming Saturday. They are to discuss a proposal that the new Council come out in favour of the abolition of the tolls. The proposal is that the Council commits to the abolition, as well as setting up a working group and allocate resources to fight the tolls.
The Western Isles Council have come out in support of SKAT, SKAT continue to request support from the Tourist Board, etc.
The Chairman of the meeting, Alan Beaton, who is on the area committee of Highland Region Council, thanked SKAT for bringing the toll issue to the public forum in such an effective manner and pointing out anomalies such as the fact that Orange badge holders do not get any concession on the bridge (half price previously on the ferry) and the fact that 4 axle vehicles have to pay double the previous ferry fare. Also, that the Scottish Office agreed with CalMac to make good any loss they had from withdrawing the Kyle-Kyleakin service - meaning that people have to pay for the bridge AND by paying increased subsidies to CalMac in the form of our tax money, for a ferry service we now no longer have.
One lone protestor nearly started a fight when he said, in Gaelic, that we should be fighting for the survival of Gaelic and the whole meeting should be in Gaelic as Skye was a Gaelic island!
The question of charging a shadow toll on the bridge, as is proposed on the new extensions to the M74 was once again discussed (Shadow toll is where the Government monitor the traffic amounts and pay the contractor so much per vehicle per year until it is paid off).
Earlier on in the week, the Automobile Association urged the Government to spend some of its road-tax billions on abolishing the Skye Bridge tolls. The AA suggested the shadow toll method. A spokesman for the AA in Scotland said "There is more than ample money taken in road tax each year to pay for such additional road improvements such as the Skye Bridge".
"The Government takes GBP20 billion in road tax, but only spends GBP6 billion, the rest going into the Treasury."
Charles Kennedy, MP for Skye & Lochalsh district is hoping to discuss the issue with EC Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock. The use of Objective One status money to pay off the bridge sooner has already been rejected by Europe.
Copyright © Ray Shields, 1996.
Most recent revision, 07 April 1996.