The sun was shining, the day was hot, the queue was long - it's Saturday, so it must be demonstration day!
Two demonstrations, one at 10 a.m. the other at 4 p.m. w ent over the bridge, bumper to bumper. The police were out in force, and won round 1 in the morning with their efficient processing of non-payers. However, by the afternoon we were running rings round them. Convoys of cars set out from Kyleakin across the bridge, mingling in amongst the tourist traffic.
The police did their best to separate us before getting to the toll barrier, splitting the non-payers into the left hand wide lane. The bridge manager, Russell Thompson asked each driver in turn if they were willing to pay the toll. Each had their own little way of replying, asking to see his authorisation to demand tolls, stating that they were unable or unwilling to pay, or mentioning that Sheriff Frasers ruling on 10th July meant they did not have to. Russell then asks if we are unwilling to pay if we will turn round, refuse and he hands you over to the policeman, while he mutters into his dictation machine the details of the car, time etc. The policeman, who has already taken down the details of your car, then takes your details (name, address, etc.) and tells you you will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal for non-payment of the toll.
After a half dozen cars are done, the police instructed Russell to lift the barrier and you were away.
Meanwhile, as the queues built up, leaflets and SKAT newsletter were handed out to tourists and visitors. We had at least 30 visitors who joined us in the protest of non-payment.
In the afternoon, as the people were processed coming off Skye, going into Kyle, turning round and rejoining the queue, the tailback was almost 1 mile long, stretching through the village of Kyle itself. At this point, and more significantly for the first time ever, the police instructed the bridge company to lift the barrier on the wide lane and let everyone through! It was great to see a convoy of almost 100 cars, just sail past the toll plaza without paying, and without being charged!! The police had decided the tailback was causing a serious obstruction, and just wanted to get us all out of their hair.
The silly thing was that a number of tourists ignored the cars streaming through the left hand lane free, and still went up to the barrier to offer payment, despite SKAT members telling them just to follow the crowd through for free. The only downpoint of the day was the attitude of one particular police officer who was overheard telling a German couple who were going to do a non-payment protest that it was nothing to do with them as they were in a foreign country and to just get to the barrier, pay, and clear off. Oh yeah, a real warm welcome to Skye...
The whole day was a success as far as SKAT were concerned. Good humour and great weather made it a success, but most especially being able to force the police to raise the barrier to let us through due to the sheer number of protestors. We have them on the run now, as one policeman I spoke to said, when the Sheriffs decision is upheld next Wednesday in Edinburgh (if it is not, then there is no justice in this world), then its curtains for the tolls. The sooner we draw these curtains to a close, the better for Skye.
Copyright © Ray Shields, 1997.
Most recent revision, 19 July 1997.