Recently, the West Highland Free Press reported on SKAT's letter to Sarah Boyack about the high cost of keeping the Skye Bridge tolls. The figures SKAT presents are based on information from the Scottish Executive and were calculated for us by Ron Shapland, M.B.E., B.Sc., FICFor., until recently SKAT's Convenor and with considerable experience in business accounts on a national scale. A spokeswoman for Sarah Boyack responded with the statement that " there are no plans to buy out the existing tolling contract".
So now we have it confirmed again. Even if it is more costly to the Taxpayer, the Scottish Executive will continue to pay public money to Keep the tolls on the Skye bridge. What is the logic of this position ? Surely if it can be demonstrated that they will be paying more to keep subsidising a private company, than to buy out the contract, and save the Taxpayer money as well as taking off the toll, the choice is simple.
Sarah Boyack's officials wrote to us saying that our figures were wrong, but their own figures contradict each other. And they are not in a hurry to put us right on these figures. What is not in dispute in the figures we have is that it will cost between £820,000 and £1,1000,000 this year to subsidise the private company. In addition, Highland Council admit to spending almost £50,000 for books of tickets last year.
Additional expenditure will come from the NHS £X thousands, the other public services £X thousands plus a VAT bill of some £600,00 to £800,000. This means that the annual public sector contribution to this toll is approaching £2m and rising annually while the local community, and visitors to Skye, are continuing to pay the highest toll in Europe. All for a bridge which should have cost £12.5 million.
The Association of Scottish Community Councils is demanding a public enquiry into this whole scheme which has been inflicted upon Scotland because of its implications for the PPP programme and on which this Government is so keen.
One should expect a better reply to the points made by us than the repeated claim that the Scottish Executive "have no plans to do anything".
SKAT will not give up on this. It is our intention to extract from the Scottish Executive just exactly how much it is costing the Scottish taxpayer to underwrite this "private initiative" and to find out what possible reason they can have for handing over this money to the biggest, i.e. wealthiest, bank in America!
An update on this will be posted when we get a full answer from Sarah Boyack.
Amelia Simonini Vice-Convenor
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 2001.
Most recent revision, 03 October 2001