Press Release 23 December 1997

SKAT Accuse the Scottish Office of Being Disingenuous

SKAT are accusing the Scottish Office of contemptible behaviour in trying to embroil the Highland Council in the dispute over the source of the suggestion that concessionary tickets should be sold in books of twenty rather than books of ten as at present.

The notion for a 20-ticket book first reared its head in the recent announcement by the Scottish Office of toll reductions for "frequent users" of the Skye Bridge. The decision to raise the threshold from 10 to 20 will exclude many local, regular users who cross the bridge fewer than 20 times each year from access to lower tolls and is being roundly condemned by many as a retrograde step. However, in a vain attempt to deflect adverse publicity from itself, the Scottish Office claimed that the decision to go for a 20-ticket book was "at the suggestion of the Highland Council".

Since the announcement SKAT has made extensive inquiries within Highland Council to discover the source of this suggestion and, having drawn a blank, we can only conclude that this damaging decision was all the Scottish Office’s own work. There is no record of the full Council ever discussing the size of the new ticket book, neither was the decision taken by members of the Council’s Roads an Transport Committee nor by the Skye Bridge Working Group.

SKAT’s vice-convener Alasdair Maclean is particularly incensed by the affair. "They handed the people of Skye a pretty inadequate palliative in the form of reduced tolls but by doubling the eligibility threshold to twenty crossing per year they simultaneously removed the right to these reductions from many of the people the new toll regime purports to help. That is bad enough, but then to try to shift the blame for this backward step onto the Highland Council is really rich. It may be that a Council official inadvertently acceded to the 20-ticket idea but even so that does not constitute a suggestion from the Highland Council. In any case no official should be making proposals on such sensitive issues without there having been prior decisions by elected members. And it is plain that at no time did our councillors even discuss the question."

Contact:- Alasdair Maclean 01470 521488

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Copyright Ray Shields, 1997.

Most recent revision, 13 March 1998