Empty Boxes for Fifth Anniversary

Symbolic empty boxes were handed over by protesters to mark the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Skye Bridge.

Officials from SKAT made the gesture to its operators, Skye Bridge Ltd, at a demonstration attended by 30 people on Saturday 7th October. John Campbell, SKAT vice-chairman, said the gift was in response to the company's contribution to Skye, Lochalsh and the Western Isles.

Mr Campbell stated: "We took along 23 boxes each with a letter on them which when put together spelt ‘Happy Birthday Skye Bridge'. The content of the boxes was absolutely nothing – reflecting the bridge's contribution to the local community over the past four years."

He said that it was a small-scale demonstration to ensure the occasion did not pass unnoticed. Mr Campbell added: "It was very difficult to match a symbolic gift to represent the 3.5million that the company takes away from the communities every year, not to mention the Eastern-bloc-style welcome to Skye presented to our vital tourist trade by traffic-control lights and barriers."

The campaigners also presented Russell Thompson, manager of the Skye Bridge, with a cartoon of himself. He accepted it in good grace, protesters said.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy vowed  to maintain the campaign to abolish Skye Bridge tolls and seek clarification of legal details which the Scottish Executive has so far refused to discuss.

He and MSP John Farquhar Munro spoke at the demonstration. Mr Kennedy revealed he had again requested a meeting with Lord Advocate Colin Boyd and remained anxious to hear Mr Boyd's opinion on the validity of the controversial assignation statement - the unsigned, undated and unpublished document purporting to be former Tory Scottish Secretary Ian Lang's assignation to the bridge operating company of the right to demand tolls.

Mr Kennedy said he and Mr Munro were visiting Skye primarily to meet local GPs to discuss medical provision on the island. He added: "I very much welcome this opportunity to speak to all those involved in the bridge campaign, and I will be urging them not to give up until we have achieved our aim and got rid of this outrageous tax."

"The demo is about maintaining the profile of the protest locally and nationally and confirming that the campaign against tolls goes on. There are a lot of outstanding legal questions to which we're still going to pursue answers."

Mr Kennedy claimed the Lord Advocate was "running scared" by failing to answer a simple question regarding the probative nature of the assignation statement. "An admission that the assignation statement is not a legal document would mean the dropping of all criminal prosecutions and massive political and financial repercussions for the Government," he insisted.

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Copyright Ray Shields, 2000.

Most recent revision, 16 November 2000