Today seen the first major protest at the bridge since the change of tactics by the bridge company and police in refusing to let protesters through.
Approximately 35 cars drove onto the bridge this morning, some from Skye side and some from the mainland. The police were waiting, with up to 10 officers, and began to filter the traffic. Drew Millar was the first to approach the barrier from the Skye side.All protesters said that they were quite willing to pay the toll, but required proof of authorisation to collect the toll.
Bridge manager, Russell Thompson, said that he had the authority to collect the toll and was not required to show it. Drew was charged with refusal to pay, and when he would not move, was also charged with obstruction. He argued that he was not unwilling to move, but was being stopped by the presence of the toll barrier and, under Scots Common law, it was illegal for the bridge company to stop him from proceeding. He also requested the Police that Russell be charged with collecting a toll without authority, which, yet again, they refused to do. It would appear it is OK for the police to charge us under one section of the New Streets & Roads Works Act, but not the bridge company staff under the proceeding section.
Drew stayed at the barrier for about an hour before reversing away and rejoining that the back of the protest. Meanwhile, the police were filtering people who wanted to pay through the wide load lanes of the toll plaza, apart from when a couple of SKAT supporters managed to sneak through and block that lane for a while as well!
Andy Anderson, who was the first person to appear in Dingwall Sheriff Court for non-payment, was the first to approach the barrier from the mainland side. He stayed in his car by the barrier for almost 4 hours, he was charged with refusing to pay as well as with obstruction, he refused to leave his car. Finally, the police took Andy from his car and drove him to Dingwall to spend tonight (at least) in a jail cell.
A meeting was held by SKAT members at the end of the day to sum up how the demonstration had gone, and to applaud the members who had added yet another criminal charge to their records, and to Andy, who is giving the ultimate sacrifice by missing his Saturday night out in Portree!
The next Court date is this coming Tuesday, when the latest pages of the concession agreement should be available to be used in the defence of the protesters.
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 1997.
Most recent revision, 13 March 1998