by Willie Morrison
The Skye Bridge controversy is the subject of the first chapter in a new book demonstrating the sometimes malign influence of big business on the government of Britain.
Captive State, the Corporate Takeover of Britain, is written by respected commentator Professor George Monbiot, who examines in detail several UK controversies of the late 20th century.
He has set out the estimated and eventual costs involved in the building of the Skye Bridge, which led to an outcry when revealed by the National Audit Office.
He has also examined at length protesters' arguments for refusal to pay and the Scottish Office's rationale in opting for a private finance initiative rather than financing the bridge directly from public funds, a decision which was to cost the public many times the true cost.
Describing Skye as "the laboratory for a novel and controversial experiment", Prof Monbiot writes: "The people of Skye would get their bridge, but it would be financed not by the Government, but by a private company.
"The company would build the structure at its own expense, then recoup the money by charging a toll. The Skye Bridge would, in other words, be the first project built under something called the private finance initiative.
"By the time the bridge was completed in 1995, the residents of Skye had discovered that the deal was rather less advantageous than they had been led to believe."
Professor Monbiot describes exchanges in Dingwall Sheriff Court. Veteran protester Robbie the Pict is mentioned for his part in exposing Scottish Office shortcomings by permitting the PFI to go forward and the Bank of America to profit so grossly, and for his legal arguments justifying his refusal to pay tolls.
Last night Robbie the Pict said: "I'm pleased that someone of Prof Monbiot's standing has the courage to recognise the scale of corporate extortion in Britain."
The book is available at Amazon.co.uk . Give it a look!
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 2000.
Most recent revision, 16 November 2000