Commenting on the revelation to the Scottish Parliament Audit Committee of a £128 million projected cost of tolling on the Skye Bridge over the concession period, SKAT Chair Ron Shapland commented "The scandal of the £128 million figure is not that it represents an actual cost of a Skye Bridge buy-out in year 2000 but that bureaucrats and politicians in year 1991 were prepared to take on a projected cost as staggering as this in order to have the first PFI completed as soon as possible -- certainly before European funding could become available where private finance would neither be eligible nor needed."
Ron went on to declare that "in year 2000, this year, we can confidently say that if all the major costs were in fact toted up including lost revenue to CalMac, loss of jobs due to ferry, a realistic and demonstratable figure of £133.5 million could be shown to be the cost to the toll and tax payer of the project. However, neither this figure nor the £128 million is the buy-out cost. Having studied the answers to questions posed by Audit Committee members MSPs Brian Adam and Euan Robson to the NAO, he went on to slam the Audit Office for its declared inability for lack of information to make an estimate of the buy-out costs as "incredible". "
He asks "Is it just incompetence or an unwillingness to even try to find out?" Ron makes this charge having made a thorough study of the project's finanaces for SKAT along with Vice-chair John Campbell contributing this information to the NAO before it made its original report in 1997; a report he stated that was "riddled with inaccuracies". He went on to comment "It must not be forgotten that both the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have made manifesto commitments to abolish the toll on the Skye Bridge. They know as well as we that the cost involved in buying out the bridge is £21.38 million. £21 million paid now is £21 million the Scottish taxpayer will not have to pay over the remainder of the tolling period. "
But the toll payers, the people and the economies of Skye and Western Isles have yet another £51.5 million to pay over that same period. We can show that taking that burden off our communities will generate another £25 million saving to the Scottish taxpayer. A buy-out now means both toll and taxpayers gain. The SKAT campaign will be on the bridge over the coming Easter weekend to leaflet and speak to visitors and residents.
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 2000.
Most recent revision, 19 April 2000