SKAT Newsletter November 1998
THIRD ANNIVERSARY ISSUE!
WE APOLOGISE FOR THE FACT THAT THERE HAS BEEN NO SKAT NEWS THESE PAST MONTHS THIS WAS MAINLY DUE TO THE LOSS OF OUR EDITOR. ON BEHALF OF SKAT MEMBERS WE THANK DAVIE FOR ALL HIS HARD WORK ON THE NEWS AND WISH HIM GOOD LUCK AND BEST WISHES FOR THE FUTURE.
Well, here we are at our third anniversary, and SKAT is still as committed as ever to a TOLL FREE bridge. There have been many disclosures of late and SKAT has been proven right in their doubts and fears over the toll structure. Although the findings of the Public Accounts Committee clearly show that this whole issue of the Skye Bridge needs further investigation, nothing is appearing to be done. (Although I did hear a little snippet that maybe an inquiry is on the way!)
The Treasury response, as reported in the WHFP 25th September1998 does not justify the continued "Head in the sand" attitude of our Government. We have paid for this project already, We are still paying for it, and we are not going to go away until someone somewhere explains how their figures add up. Perhaps we all need to go back to school for a maths refresher course? (That's if there are enough funds in the education budget!) We still have many court appeals unheard, Why did it only take 12 days for the crown appeal in the MacLean/McGugan case in July 1997? Yes we may have been a little quiet, but we are busy behind the scenes. So watch this space!
It is interesting to note that SKAT have been informed that the AVERAGE waiting time for appeals is 18 WEEKS. The average SKAT appeal time is at least a year and in one case nearly TWO! If you are waiting for appeal news, why not let the SKAT news know how you and your loved ones are coping with this hanging over you for so long.
Please send all SKAT NEWS information to the address below: SKAT NEWS C/O Murray 12 Upper Breakish Isle of Skye IV42 8PY
October Winners £100- no 44, Dunvegan £20- no 49, Portree £50- no 369, Kyleakin £10- no 239, Dunvegan
Eilean Ban - Who got the missing £200,000?
The National Audit Office report on the Skye Bridge of 23rd May 1997 reveals that the Scottish Office paid out £700,000 to purchase land for the scheme. An incredible £1.7M in advisers' and agents' fees was also spent in relation to this affair. Admitted receipts however only add up to around £500,000. Who got the remaining £200,00?
Saturday 17th October, the third anniversary of the first SKAT challenge to the SKYE tolls saw SKAT out to challenge the Tolls yet again. There were around 250 demonstrators involved, and a fair number of sympathetic supporters travelling home from the Skye Mod. That same afternoon Calum Macdonald and Brian Wilson were attending a "hand over" ceremony for Eilean Ban being taken over by the Kyle Community, and were therefore not very far from the demonstration. Once again when the first car got to the toll barrier and the driver asked to see some evidence that the Secretary of State approved the collection of Tolls by the company, which was asking for them. This was refused and eventually the driver was charged with a road traffic offence, which he had not committed. In later discussions with the police, it was made clear that they had instructions from the Procurator Fiscal not to charge anyone under the New Roads and Street Works Act.
This, of course, is an acknowledgement that SKAT have been successful in defeating this legislation and have forced the establishment to abandon this carefully prepared legal measure to intimidate the community. However, the steps they have taken to replace this legislation is appalling and a direct threat to freedom of individuals.
The other big issue of that day was that the Scottish Office "Spin Doctors" had planted stories that SKAT had made an intervention at the handing over of Eilean Ban function, and that Virginia McKenna of the Born Free Foundation was forced to complain about SKAT's behavior.
This plot by the Government Spin Doctors and their press lackeys was blown up in their faces when John Campbell got in touch with Virginia and she made a press statement with SKAT saying that the reports about her being hassled and forced to complain were just not true.
DEMO 28th November Skye Bridge watch press for further details
or contact Andy Anderson John Campbell 01470 542365 01478 61 2868
Dates for your Diary : December 1998 Public meeting of all prospective SMP candidates Thurs 3rd Aros Centre Portree
SKAT A.G.M. Royal Hotel Portree , All Welcome,12th Dec.
SKAT Political Strategy
A proposal was put forward by Cailean MacLean at a previous meeting, i.e. "that we should aim to have a significant influence in the elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999"and We support the view that this objective is the correct one. If we are to have a significant effect in the coming Scottish elections we need to have an effective Scottish wide structure in place long before the elections, we do not have time to waste if we intend to do the job effectively. If the Government see that we are building a structure to influence the elections, they might well back off and concede on the toll issue.
a) Establish small support units in as many constituencies as possible, who will do certain tasks on our behalf, in their own locality, and do it publicly. These units do not need to be very large (Tom Macallister in Coventry shows this) one or two keen supporters in an area. We would require in the first instance to get members and supporters to contact potential supporters in every part of Scotland and request that they put adverts in local Press for those interested in establishment of SKAT units to contact them.
b) Development of programs for these units such as political surveys, fund raising céilidhs, petitions etc.
c) Re-establish Parliamentary Multi-party committee of MPs to fight our case in Parliament, and we could get publicity for this by again holding a meeting in Westminster. Meet with the Public Accounts Committee members to further brief and lobby them.
d) Publicity program which relates to our policy, strategy and incorporates our legal and events activities.
e) Focus on current issues, i.e.; possible extension of PFI's in the Highlands, Ferry Fare increases to the Western Isles. The committee is well aware that such an ambitious program can only be developed with the wide support and enthusiasm of the current membership and supporters. They are also conscious of the amount of work this would require and the financial and other resources, which would need to be committed.
As regards work the committee elected Andrew McMorrine as convenor and Moira MacDonald as vice-convenor, with specific duties, but also found duties for other committee members to perform. The committee gave an assurance to the meeting that any activity which has a financial implication will be costed by the committee and submitted to a meeting of members for approval before it is implemented. Progress in the courts has slowed dramatically in the past months. the last actual ruling from the High Court was in the Irene McGugan appeal 25th July 1997. Sheriff Fraser had agreed with Michael Upton that indeed the toll order did not specify who was obliged to pay the toll. The Crown appeal took a record 10 days to be heard and secured a reversal of Sheriff Jimmy's ruling. This ruling in effect changed the procedure at the bridge. Any further protesters were treated to the charge of 'Obstruction'. Chief Bill Robertson has even gone on record to Charles Kennedy MP claiming the credit for the change in policy.
On the 8th of October 1997 during two days of Robbie the Pict with 40 charges of non-payment the crown finally conceded that there was no assignation in place in favour of Miller civil engineering. A motion of no case to answer was denied by Sheriff Booker -Milburn who declared he was fed up with all this nonsense, as it was perfectly clear that Miller were 'Sub-contracted to collect 'on behalf of' the concessionaires. "Exactly", replied Mr. Pict, "which is prohibited by both statute and civil contract".
Around the Courts (a brief reminder)
On November 4th 1997 the Fiscal was foolish enough to commence the prosecution of Alec Smith, Solicitor-advocate Patrick Wheatley was ambushed when the Fiscal waved yet another Crown Production16 at him. Following the difficulties of Oct.8th and the lack of consent to a sub-contract this memorandum was produced as the Secretary of States 'consent in writing' to Miller collecting the tolls. It was in fact only a contractors 'awareness memo' to which even the author admitted to the Herald newspaper that it certainly did not constitute consent by the Secretary of State to a statutory assignation or even subcontract. (Guilty)
November 5th 1997 The next troublemaker to be pursued at all costs was Cllr. Drew Miller. The same Memo was again used by the fiscal, however Drew identified the additional point that, even if this memorandum was the statutory consent in writing, to Miller collecting tolls, things still had to be effected 'according to statute' which took us back to an assignation to Miller as a second concessionaire. This clearly had not happened. (Guilty)
November 18th 1997 Sheriff Penman faced Robbie the Pict this time, Alec & Drew's arguments were repeated, and re-inforced. The sheriff read a judgement that there is clearly a sub-contract to collect toll's behalf of Skye Bridge Company and the Secretary of State was clearly aware of this arrangement' (Guilty) It must be said at this point that the Appeals resulting from the above three trials have all been allowed, but as with many others, no date for appeal hearings as yet!
January 27th/28th 1998 Ian Murray and Robbie the Pict are requested to attend Dingwall on the 27th. This turned into a marathon for both, Ian being called first then asked to take a seat whilst the court made sure Robbie was there! Ian returned to the box to answer 1st wave charges (Oct1995) having agreed previously with the fiscal to the statement of facts. Ian was found the usual Guilty, but was then told by Sheriff Fraser "I am not going to sentence you at this time will you please remain here and I will sentence you later" The court then returned to Robbie the Pict, who was cross-examined at long lengths by the sheriff over two days. As one can imagine being recognised as not guilty in these circumstances is almost impossible, but Robbie put up his usual fight and managed in the end to get himself acquitted or not guilty on no less than 6 charges, however he was of course found the usual guilty on the other 5 charges. In between the Robbie saga, Ian Murray is still awaiting his sentence on day1, being called back to the bench at 5pm,Sheriff Fraser announced "I am still not going to sentence you at this time, will you return for sentencing? " Ian agreed to return the next day and sat in the courtroom until the Pict trial was finished when he was recalled by the sheriff who after an apology stated "I was contemplating something yesterday that I am not contemplating today" and Ian was duly fined the customary £30 per charge. To date he also has not heard any word of his appeal.
March 11th 1998 Another Pict trial, by now more than 70 of his 129 charges are in the pipeline! A ray of hope appears with the discovery that the sheriff will be Sheriff Ken Forbes who has a reputation of being fair and sensible. Robbie once again challenged the Crown's documents beginning with production 16. The suggestion that this was nothing more than a memorandum, so disturbed the Sheriff that he retired to chambers for half an hour and upon his return he invited both Robbie the Pict and the fiscal to join him explaining that he had read all the notes of appeal and he was unhappy about proceeding to rule on the challenge until the appeal court had expressed itself further and cleared up some of the clouds over the question of legitimacy. Because of the reasonable doubt identified by the sheriff, there was no wisdom in proceeding until both the bench and the accused were better informed. There have been no further trials for non-payment since that date.
The next big thing on the criminal front is an Appeal Court hearing
on 18th December 1998 for Andrew McMorrine. Advocate Maggie Scott has agreed
to appear for Andrew and state his appeal on the grounds that there is
no proper assignation in favour of Miller Civil Engineering.
ANDY ANDERSON SUBMISSION TO EUROPEAN COMMISSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Following my first charge on the 17th October 1995, Under the New Roads and Street Works Act I made it clear right away that intended to fight this issue all the way, whatever the cost, and whatever the difficulty. I had never been charged with a criminal charge before, so at that early stage I did not appreciate the cost or the difficulties that I was facing to meet this commitment. In the three years since, I have spent around £5,000 from my own pocket, have fines of over £1,000 outstanding, have been arrested three times and held in police cells overnight, served 11 days in Porterfield Prison, and still face a number of charges and plan to commit more. On the 5th August 1998 I was informed by the Secretary of State that "there is nothing to suggest that a miscarriage of justice might have occurred in your conviction" This decision by the Secretary of State freed me to make a submission to the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The submission itself was very bulky, and was put together by John Campbell, without John's considerable assistance I would have found it very difficult, if not impossible to do.
There are a number of aspects of my case covering a number of articles of the convention, but the main points are the following:
(1) I was made to attend a number of Intermediate Diets, held in Dingwall 130 miles from my home, and requiring me to cross the toll bridge, in such a way as to be harassment.
(2) The above court appearances in Dingwall were judged unlawful in the Scottish Court of Appeal (Cullan Judgement) and this harassment was unlawful.
(3) I was arrested, and subsequently imprisoned for refusing to attend an unlawful hearing. (4) I was not given fair access to Legal Aid.
(5) My family rights, rights to free association, and liberty under articles of the convention were infringed. I submitted my application on the 4th September 1998 and was informed on 22nd September 1998 that it had passed through the sifting process and that it would be accepted for consideration. I do not at this stage have any idea how long this case will take, or indeed what other material I may be required to supply, I am however pleased that it was accepted so quickly into the system, and I am very hopeful that it will be successful.
Demo Saturday 28th November at (where else)Skye Bridge
At the SKAT meeting on Saturday 24th October, after the events that occurred at the demonstration held on the 17th it was agreed that there should be a further demonstration on the date above. SKAT are pleased that their efforts have forced the Government to abandon the use of the "New Roads and Street Works Act" because this legislation is now so full of holes that it is not reliable. However the Government are not attempting to amend, or change the legislation, which could present them with major embarrassment before the Scottish elections, so they are instructing the police to charge protestors with other offences. Our demonstration on the 28th November is to challenge this "bending" of the law for political purposes. We will be notifying the Chief Constable in advance that we intend to "attempt to evade payment" of the toll, such an attempt being deemed a criminal offence under the "Roads and Street Works Act" When we get to the tollbooth we will inform the police of our intention. When the police refuse to allow us to pass and ask us to move we shall do so, but only to rejoin the Q of those waiting to inform the police of their intentions. We are hoping to get support from outwith Skye for this demo, but in order to organise this we need to provide accommodation for supporters coming up from the south.
A87 Road-Tolling Experiment (SKYE)
A Reminder of the Facts from Robbie the Pict
Miller was awarded the contract because their bid of £12m was closest to the feasibility study estimate. £12m included all approach roads, consultancy fees and the cost of finance. The span itself was to be under £7m. Delighted that somebody would take it on the Scottish Office threw in another £6m.This was just as well because Miller were Financially challenged at the time, in fact £12.7m in the red. However, Bank of America stepped in, in the form of the Skye Bridge company, took over the Miller project and the Scottish Office secured Bank of America a loan of £12.7m from the European Investment Bank and made everything OK. It is not clear if other bidders were offered this help.
The Scottish Office £6m was upped to £9m, easily enough to pay for the span,and then again to £12m, which of course covered the whole project including the costs of consultancy and financing. With the crossing all paid for by the tax-payer, Bank of America set about marketing the concession to private investors. the government had conned the tax-payer and then handed over the rights to the monopoly for 27 years, complete with police and court protection. Using a merchant banker with Skye connections Bank of America attracted an investment of £7.5m from the Prudential. Miller of course was now in debt to the Bank of America but they were (illegally) declared in as toll collectors and an inflated fee for collection was built into their costs. An extra £600,000 is knocked off tolls annually in addition to Miller's real costs to help them pay back Bank of America.
In addition Bank of America lent Miller £500,000 stake money with a return of 18.6% which should yield them about £37m if this is allowed to continue. The Scottish Office also agreed to compensate Cal-Mac to the tune of £1m per annum for the loss of their excessively profitable ferry route. This too was at the tax-payers' expense but Ian Lang, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton and Professor James Innes really excelled themselves with the pay-back conditions. They agreed to a toll order for £24m without subtracting the £15m already paid over by the tax-payer. The toll order should only have been for £9m,£3m more than which has already been collected. Even better, Bank of America is allowed to count all toll money discounted at 6% to 1991 values.
That means that over £72m has to be collected to pay off the £24m which should have been £9m! To the £72m we must add £18m compensation to Cal-Mac and, if the European Court prevails, we can add 17.5% VAT to that. Thus we are paying over £100m for a £7m bridge! Fortunately, the Scottish Office, appear not to have set the scheme up legally! And in spite of the best efforts of some, people in power, the truth will out. The Bank of America is currently under arraignment for fraud and embezzlement of public money in the U.S.
SKAT KIRKCALDY SUPPORT GROUP present
SCALDED CATS & SANGSTERS
FOLK NIGHT 13th DECEMBER PATH TAVERN 8pm
Extracts from SKAT Supporters letters
McAldrums Lanarkshire - " Good Luck with the Campaign"
Mr.Warburton Bury - "I wish you every success in the coming months and may this government consider 'Fair Play' to all you folk from Skye"
Peter Digby Colchester - " I am very disappointed the new government has not done more to alleviate the hardship caused by the toll structure. the discount books are all very well in principle but how many islanders actually benefit? The need to produce a whole book each time goes against the tourist industry as how can bus companies justify passing on the charge of £75 to it's passengers for a day trip? Let's hope with Robbie's endeavours SKAT will not be needed in the long term. Good Luck with all your endeavours" Joyce Mains Glasgow - "Good Luck with the Campaign"
David Mann Cardiff - " People in South Wales feel aggrieved at paying £4.00 to go over either of the two Severn bridges( only payable coming into Wales!) until they hear the cost of travelling to and from your beautiful Island. Best wishes and Good Luck with your continued Campaign"
Judith Curtis Poole - "I have been to your beautiful Isle twice, staying
at the Kings Arms, on both occasions. Seeing the bridge every day of our
holiday prompted me to become a supporter in 1996. Living so far away I'm
afraid I can't be that active, although I always wore my supporter's badge,
until one day in my local Tesco the check out girl asked if I was wearing
a 'TAKE THAT' badge, keep fighting I'm positive that you will achieve your
goal. All the best "
SKAT Support Units
At a meeting on the 7th March this year SKAT decided a policy for the establishment of SKAT Support Units in Scotland. The idea is that we can have small units of SKAT Supporters in every part of Scotland with whom we are in contact, and who help us to develop our campaign in a number of ways. Currently we have units or contacts in : Inverness, Elgin, Cromarty, Aberdeen, North Fife, Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Stirling, Alexandria, Dumbarton, Glasgow, Paisley, Lanark, and Duns in the borders.
This means that we are to spread our campaign more than the limited resources we have on Skye. For example: we have held a public meeting in Lanark, and attracted local press coverage for the campaign. When we set up the unit in Lanark; in Kirkcaldy we had a very successful folk music evening in a local pub, again raising funds and helping to spread the message; and in Stirling on the 17th October when we could not get a team down from Skye to attend the Lib-Dem Conference in Stirling, arrangements were made by our Stirling group to leaflet the conference.
As we now prepare to organise political surveys in all parts of Scotland then our Support Units will be invaluable to help us in that task, they can ensure that the great deal of sympathy which we have out in the wider community can be turned into effective support. Attempts are being made to establish SKAT support units throughout Scotland with the intention of having at least one such unit in each Parliamentary Constituency in Scotland as soon as possible. Support Units to comprise a minimum of 4 members who live in the constituency, one of whom should act as Secretary, and be in regular contact with a designated SKAT officer in Skye & Lochalsh.
For further information on Support Units and SKAT Policies please contact Cailean MacLean or Andy Anderson (Telephone numbers below) SKAT wishes to express our thanks for the activists in the support units for all the work they have done, and in advance for the large amount of work we are just about to ask them to do. Can I also ask members to think about others living outwith Skye who might like to join, or set up a support group. For those wishing to join or help to establish a Support Unit, they can do this by contacting our secretary Cailean MacLean at 01470-532309 or his assistant, Andy Anderson at 01470-542365 or write to:
Andy Anderson Eadar Da Allt, 22 Earlish, Portree Isle of Skye IV51 9XL
Monies from the club go towards the huge costs of financing the SKAT Campaign- Lawyers and Solicitors Fees, Postage, Telephone, Stationery etc.
Anna Belle Robertson Sighthill, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye,IV41 8PNName................................................................................................. Address............................................................................................. ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Telephone Number.......................................................................... Membership-6/ 12 months: I would like to buy...................months numbers at £1 per draw per month for 6/12 months. I enclose a cheque/cash for £..............I agree to abide by these conditions and understand that if, after 6/12 months, I wish to continue my entry in the draw, I must first pay another 6/12 months. Signed..............................................................................................
SKAT needs all the funds it can get. Support and spread the word now by buying some of our quality merchandise.
Sweat Shirts(XL.L.M.) Black or Grey .....................................£15.00
T-Shirts(XL.L.M.) Black Grey or White...................................£10.00
Mugs("I've been mugged by the Skye BridgeCo").....................£3.00
"SKAT" Car Stickers (oval or "Drive for Justice")....................£1.00
"SKAT" Motor Bike stickers (oval)..........................................£1.00
* What did you do before SKAT?
* The Bridge can be free!
Please include 40p p&p for stickers& badges only, otherwise include £1.50 for all other items. Please send your order with a cheque made payable to "SKAT" to:
Mrs. Ann Cameron, Seathrift Garden Shop, Kyle, RosshireTelephone 01599 534161 day or 01599 534217 evenings
Back to Skye Bridge News Index or the Skye
Bridge Main Page
(c) SKAT, 1998
Last revision 29 November 1998