Press Release 12 November 1997

In the light of Miller Civil Engineering’s continuing inability to demonstrate that they are legally entitled to collect tolls on the Skye Bridge and the acute embarrassment they have caused the legal system in their hapless attempts to produce something which might pass for such authority, SKAT are demanding immediate Government action.

Two years have elapsed since the first request to see Miller’s authority and whereas the Court in Dingwall was happy to accept a document produced last week purporting to be the requisite ‘permission’ subsequent scrutiny of it reveals it to be something resurrected from the appendix to a development agreement which expired on the 16th October 1995. Furthermore one of Scotland’s foremost legal minds supports SKAT’s contention that whatever the document produced in court does, it does not constitute consent from the Secretary of State to Miller Civil Engineering empowering them to collect tolls.

The current Secretary of State should intervene immediately to sort out this unholy mess. His Government are not responsible for the legislation which gave Skye the most expensive toll bridge in Europe, yet since coming to power they have done nothing to ameliorate the situation other than a vague promise of concession prices for regular users. (Which we discover they can only deliver if the Bank of America gives them permission!) Donald Dewar should act now to suspend tolls on the Skye Bridge with a view to their eventual abolition.

"After all", said SKAT convenor Drew Millar, "he did admit that the Conservative government were at the beginning of a learning curve when they framed the Skye Bridge legislation. He could show us, by getting rid of the tolls, that Governments are indeed capable of learning." Otherwise, Mr. Millar added, the Government risks further embarrassment not only when SKAT test the question in court but also in the wake of the writ of Interdict currently in the final stage of preparation. If he does not act then protesters will have no hesitation in applying for the writ.

Mr. Dewar should also curb the Scottish Office’s enthusiastic defence of the status quo in terms of the operation of the Skye Bridge. The Scottish Office have been heaping blame for the mess on SKAT - this is particularly galling given that their interventions will undoubtedly prejudice the cases of alleged non-payers which have yet to come to court.

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Copyright Ray Shields, 1997.

Most recent revision, 13 March 1998