Skye Bridge anti-tolls campaigners say that a Court Hearing and a House of Commons Debate make it certain that the Toll issue will be a significant factor in the final months before the Scottish Parliament elections in May next year. They welcome the fact that the House of Commons has just announced that it will hold a full-scale debate on the controversial funding of the bridge. And it will be held in the same week as Lord Eassie's landmark judgement on the legality of Miller Civil Engineering's collection of the toll is expected to be announced.
A full debate will be held in the House of Commons on January 14th into the Public Accounts Committee's report on the scandal of the funding arrangements for the Bridge project. Given that the whole scheme was roundly condemned in the PAC report it is anticipated that the debate will make unpleasant listening for those who may still wish to defend the concept of a monopolistic toll on a bridge across a narrow stretch of water to a fragile island economy.
In the Court of Session last week it was concede by the Scottish Office that correct procedures had not been followed in setting up the Skye Bridge scheme but that any discrepancies could be quickly rectified by the Secretary of State, Donald Dewar. This emerged during the hearing of an interdict being sought by Robbie the Pict to stop Miller Civil Engineering collecting tolls at the Skye Bridge. If the judge's ruling on this issue is in Robbie's favour Mr Dewar will find himself in an invidious situation. Not only will he be under pressure to right the wrongs in legislation which his party so roundly condemned before the last election but he will also be seen to support a toll regime which Labour in the north of Scotland pledged at the General Election to abolish as soon as practicably possible.
SKAT Convener, Drew Millar, recognises that Mr Dewar is in a cleft stick but argues that his dilemma is of the Government's own making. "The Labour government which promised so much in terms of the tolls before the election has been pussyfooting around long enough. They claim they cannot see away out of this mess, so they allowed an injustice to continue. But an ideal way out has presented itself as a result of Robbie the Pict's persistence and the Secretary of State, rather than patching up this flawed legislation, should knock it on the head once and for all. After all they are the government and have a huge majority - they should be able to ignore protests from Millers, the Bank of America, NationsBank or whoever currently owns the dubious right to collect tolls."
Contact: Drew Millar, 01478 612895, Alasdair Maclean 01470 521488 or see SKAT contact page.
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 1998.
Most recent revision, 18 December 1998