The Scottish Executive have confirmed that they are to commission consultants to help negotiate a deal to pay off the Skye Bridge toll concession
Local MSP John Farquhar Munro received a reply to a letter he sent to Nicol Stevens, transport minister, who said the Executive was to "enter into negotiations with a view to ending the discredited toll regime on the Skye bridge".
Mr Stephen told his Liberal Democrat colleague: "Officials have been in contact with the concessionaire and are exploring a number of options for ending the tolls. At this stage, we are considering in detail financial and other information provided to us by the company and we aim to enter more formal negotiations very soon. It is too early to say what the eventual outcome might be or when the tolling might come to an end."
We should know within the next two months what cost the Executive could be facing.
Portree member Drew Millar also called on
Highland Council to help clarify why Miller Buidheann, the firm which now
collects the tolls, can continue to charge drivers when its licence to collect
£23.64million has expired.
"We really have put our faith in John Farquhar Munro to represent us on this one and it would be a relief to finally get the tolls lifted. The Skye Bridge deal was put in place by an inept government and it seems to me that there has been a total cover up since day one."
No timescale for the removal has yet been made, the Executive is only just starting the process of looking for the consultants to help them in the negotiating process. Unfortunately, all negotiations shall be carried out in private as the Executive insist that the contract is commercially confidential.
SKAT, who have been campaigning to have the tolls removed since the bridge opened in 1995 are delighted that the Scottish Parliament have seen sense at last as the continuing cost of the tolls, both to the taxpayer and to the Islanders, will continue to be a burden until they are abolished. Although some other pressure groups will continue to fight to show that the whole toll regime was illegal in the first place, the primary aim of SKAT was to have the tolls removed by any means possible.
We shall look forward to the day when we can cross the bridge for free!
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 2003.
Most recent revision, 31 October 2003