SKAT are calling for the resignation of the Highland Council official who suggested that the size of concessionary toll ticket books should be doubled to twenty. In doing so the official exceeded his authority, because such a move was contrary to the official policy of his employers, Highland Council, whose objective is the complete removal of tolls. Nor was this official’s suggestion sanctioned by the councillors on the Skye Bridge Working Party, the body which should have been responsible for any deal struck with the government on behalf of the people of Skye.

That the interests of the electorate were so shabbily handled by paid officials is bad enough, but the most galling aspect of the whole concessionary ticket affair is that it now appears to be a complete confidence trick. The current situation requires purchasers of books of twenty concessionary tickets to use them within 12 months but a sample survey of Skye drivers conducted by SKAT reveal that only 6.7% expect to cross the bridge more than ten times per year. In effect, the greater part of Skye drivers making use of the concessionary ticket arrangements will have used barley half the book of tickets by the time of their expiry.

"This is no more than an elaborate sham", according to veteran campaigner Robbie Cormack. "Many drivers are being put off buying books of tickets because they are infrequent bridge users. But many of those who do invest in books of tickets will find that a large number of them will be wasted because of their limited period of validity. Yet the Bank of America will already have pocketed the full amount for the tickets. Once again the tax-payer and the toll-payer loses."

Having suggested the twenty-ticket book in the first place Highland Council officials had to return, cap in hand, to the Scottish Office to seek concessionary arrangements which actually benefit the regular and frequent bridge user. Inevitably their overtures were rejected by the Government who insisted that the arrangements already in place will cost the tax-payer 650,000 per year. The revelation of this particular figure has amazed members of SKAT who point out that in order to achieve this level of subsidy 5000 drivers would have to cross the bridge 100 times each year. This rate of usage, given what our surveys have already shown, is barely credible. "Are there 5000 drivers in Skye?" asks Robbie Cormack, "and if so will they cross the bridge annually? Something stinks about this whole arrangement and the Highland Council should act now to get to the bottom of it. As a priority they should get rid of the official who landed the people of Skye in this mess in the first place."

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Copyright Ray Shields, 1998.

Most recent revision, 04 June 1998