SKAT NEWS May 1999
During the election campaign Skat has been closely monitoring the various party manifestos.
The Four main parties: -
So the Scottish elections are over, and as you will all know all the promises made by the prospective candidates are as always empty words. (OR are they?) Donald Dewar and Jim Wallace don't seem to agree on how the freeze now in place on the Tolls came about. Donald would have us believe that it was all approved before the election, while Jim says that it was part of the coalition pact. Who do we believe?
The subject of PFI's has been discussed in several quarters including the TUC conference. Our efforts to bring the flaws within the Skye Bridge PFI to the attention of the powers that be have not gone unnoticed. Further PFI's will now be closely monitored.
(And they are still not value for money.)
Are you still in Limbo waiting for news of appeals?
Please send your story to the News.
All those waiting for cases to be called, we need to know the following: -
In order to compile a list of cases pending we need your details.
999 Club winners
£100 180 - Ardvaser £50 156 - Kyleakin
£20 361 - Peterhead £10 395 - Portree
£100 220 - Breakish £50 372 - Portnalong
£20 389 - Kyle £10 12 - Portree
£100 185 - Carbost £50 127 - Kyleakin
£20 54 - Portree £10 285 - Kyleakin
Monies from the club go towards the huge costs of financing the SKAT Campaign- Lawyers and Solicitors Fees, Postage, Telephone, Stationery etc. Support SKAT and have a chance of winning cash prizes.
The target is 999 members.
Draws take place on the last Saturday of every month. Payment should be made six or twelve months in advance by cash or cheque made payable to SKAT
Cash prizes shall be no less than 45% of the month's total membership fees.
For details, have a look at our SKAT 999 page.
The '95 Uprising
By Mary Graham
A strong surge within, A tightening of the stomach muscles,
The heart pounding, controlling the brain,Emotion overwhelming any discretion,
Then the march.
Three hundred, behind kilted pipers for Freedom, for Democracy.
Wind and driving rain uniting us keeping us together by the cause.
'They have the might We have the right'
We shout in a rhythmic chant. Onwards over the bridge
With a wild sea running below
The mountains of our forefathers behind strengthening our resolve
Marching to the barrier the thin metal bar that denies us our Freedom.
The bar that makes us Criminals when we refuse to pay.
'They have the might We have the right'
The people have risen we will never give up the fight for Freedom, Hope, Right, history spurs us on.
Skat has reacted to the pact between Labour and the Liberal Democrats with a mixture of anger, disappointment and disbelief.
This pact, while producing a minor adjustment (or did it? Ed.) to the toll regime on the Skye Bridge, seems to have been designed more to stifling any debate on the infamous tolls in the Scottish parliament than alleviating the huge burden of toll charges which falls on the remote rural communities the bridge serves.
The acquiescence of the Lib-Dems in this contentious issue is all the more appalling because the abolition of the Skye Bridge tolls was one of the main planks of their election manifesto. They seem to be happy to go along with a sleekit plan by Labour MSPs to Freeze the tolls on the bridge for the remainder of the toll period (however long that may be) rather than fighting for their abolition and for an independent inquiry into the funding and operation of the bridge as they had promised before the election.
Reacting to news of how Scottish government propose to tinker with the toll regime Skat convener, Drew Millar commented.
"After all they said about tolls prior to the election you would have thought that embarrassment and shame would have prevented them from agreeing to this pathetic gesture regarding tolls. But somehow the Lib-Dem leadership sacrificed their credibility and dignity for the sake of elevating Jim Wallace to the post of deputy First Minister. Do they really want to return Liberal-Democrats from this constituency in future elections? The other point, which should not be lost, is that this was a Labour plan stitched up in advance of the pact being agreed. Now that it has been enshrined in the pact there may not be an opportunity to bring this issue before parliament."
Mr Millar has been inundated by calls from disenchanted Liberal Democrat voters who have not been able to register their disgust with representatives of their party, all of whom seem to have gone to ground.
"My sympathy is with John Farquhar Munro, Lib-Dem MSP for this area, who resisted this agreement between the parties. He has been hung out to dry by his Lib-Dem colleagues. I also wonder why this Labour plan for the tolls was not announced before the election since it might have been a crumb of comfort for their candidate, Donnie Munro, who has been dreadfully exposed over the tolls issue."
Mr Millar added that if the coalition parties believe that by freezing them at present levels the ant-tolls campaign will go away they are seriously deluded. "They seem to forget that the Skye Bridge is one-third the size of the Forth Bridge but costs £5.30 more to cross it by car. If this is an example of justice and parity of treatment in the new Scottish Parliament then we are all in deep trouble."
For comments or queries regarding tolls on the Skye Bridge
Drew Millar 01478 612533
Alasdair McLean 01470 521488
Robbie the Pict has written to the new Scottish Minister of Justice, Liberal Democrat Jim Wallace, urging him to call a Public Inquiry into the Skye Bridge crossing.
He claims that, because neither the Toll Order nor the Assignation Statement bestowing the right to collect the charges are legal, all convictions for non-payment are unsound and should be quashed.
Sir Iain Noble, during campaigning as an independent highlands and Islands candidate for the Scottish Parliament, voiced his support for an independent inquiry into the Skye bridge project.
Congratulation to Dr John Reid for becoming the new owner of the Skye bridge.
Surprised? You are not alone.
Not everyone is aware that, although the concession to collect tolls belongs to Bank of America, the bridge itself is owned by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
This was revealed at 1.17pm on July 1998 in a meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee when the then Scottish Office Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Henry McLeish, told Charles Kennedy:
"The bridge is owned by the Secretary of State but, as I have already stated, it would not have been built without the use of private finance hence the concession agreement with Skye Bridge Ltd."
Some of you may remember on the Grampian "head-to-head" programme, with the leaders of the four main political parties, before the election, that Donald Dewar seemed to find it impossible to answer the question as to who owned the Skye Bridge.
That was yet another example of "Donald Duck's the issue."
The Skye Bridge tolls issue looks set to become one of the first to be raised before a cross-party group of MSPs in Edinburgh.
Skat have welcomed the initiative by Ross, Skye and Inverness West MSP John Farqhuar Munro, to seek to have the issue debated in Parliament in spite of the coalition agreement not to raise the tolls for the duration of the toll period.
A packed meeting of anti-toll activists in Protree derided the new proposals, with Skat convener, Highland councillor Drew Millar, saying that they were poised to take their case to Edinburgh next month.
In an interview by Norman Macdonald for Radio Scotland News Mr Millar made the following statement
"The purpose of that is just to sort of give them a flavour that we are still alive, we are still on the go, our campaign is ongoing, and looking for support from them when the day comes when John F Munro is hoping to put a debate in front of the Parliament regarding the abolition of tolls as was clearly stated in the Lib-Dem election manifesto. He feels that he has enough support in the Parliament to win the day."
Drew Millar also stated that this had been the biggest crowd at a Skat meeting for some time and people were disappointed and hurt at Jim Wallace coalition deal with Labour. "They have come out in numbers to show that they are still in support of the campaign. We're certainly not going to go away, we'll be carrying on with the fight, and Edinburgh's a lot closer than Westminster so we can be down there more often- just to keep an eye on them."
The Scottish Office is working overtime to ensure that the public are prevented from getting full and frank details about the funding and operation of the Skye Bridge project.
In the week when tolls on the infamous Skye Bridge rise to record levels, the Scottish Office has rejected a call from the Highland Council for a Public Inquiry into the bridge while also continuing to sit on a highly critical report they themselves commissioned into it's economic impact.
The Scottish Office have chosen deliberately to obstruct any further attempt to cast light on the discredited project because it would have been politically devastating, particularly in the run up to the Scottish Parliamentary elections.
Commenting on the Scottish Office's refusal to entertain a full inquiry into the Skye Bridge PFI, Drew Millar, SKAT's convener, roundly criticised their "head in the sand" attitude.
"Everyone knows that the way the previous administration set up this PFI was an archetypal burach and one in which the interests of the islanders were completely ignored. Yet we in Skye and the Western Isles are having to pick up the very substantial tab for their incompetence, but the current administration is so protective of their precious PFI's that they will not allow anything which might undermine the people's perception of their usefulness."
"It's a very unsubtle cover up."
Mr Millar reserved his strongest criticisms of the Labour administration for the way that they continue to suppress a report on the economic effects of the bridge.
This was a report the Scottish Office commissioned from DTZ Peida, which was conducted last year and was due to be completed in December 1998.
"The government has had great problems with this report. The first draft produced by the consultants, of which details have been leaked to SKAT, revealed that the perception of the bridge by the community and particular by the business sector was very poor indeed. It even showed that folk living here felt that the bridge was having a deleterious effect on education in the island! Clearly the Government could not let results of this nature get into public domain."
A further difficulty for the government is that with any bridge building project there is invariably a positive and significant economic benefit from it for the places it links.
That this has not happened in the case of the Skye Bridge A direct result of the punitive tolls. Is something that they could not admit.
"Rather than come clean about the effects of the bridge the government is burying its head in the sand. They know it will have to be published sometime but they will delay its appearance until after the election."
Many thanks to Skat News readers for their letters and suggestions.
I have done my best to take those of you, who requested email versions of the news off the snail mail list, and added to the Skat news onelist list, Thanks to Robert, and Ray. If however I missed anyone I send my apologies.
Thank you all for your continued support.
The letter below was sent to Charles Kennedy this week.Skye and Kyle Against Tolls (SKAT) PO Box1, Post Office Portree Isle of Skye
19th May 1999
Dear Mr Kennedy,
PUBLIC INQUIRY - Approach to James Wallace MSP, Minister of Justice
I write following a boisterous public meeting last week, which was frankly less than enamoured with the Labour/Liberal-Democrat preservation of the toll regime. Given the recent disclosures regarding the plain unlawfulness of several documents crucial to the tolling operation I am charged with conveying a request to you concerning Mr Wallace, the freshly appointed Minister of Justice.
It is now absolutely clear from the Register of Statutory Instruments of 1992 that the Toll Order 1501/1992 was not published. This fact provides a statutory defence in a criminal prosecution and was raised in a test case, (Hingston v. McGugan June1997) The Crown, or the Scottish Office, withheld the truth about the status of the order, in part by not supplying it's classification certificate to the Court in Dingwall, pretending instead that the order had been published. The Sheriff accepted the Crown's deceit and, as a direct result, 125 of your constituents now carry a wrongful criminal record as a reward for a brave public service. Irene McGugan is now an MSP.
In addition, it has recently come to light, as I am sure you are already aware, that the statutory Assignation Statement, pretending to be in favour of the Concessionaire and its shareholders Bank of America is also unlawful. It had been concealed for over three years and despite being an integral part of establishing and proving the existence of any legitimate toll regime it had never been produced in Court. We know why. It is not accurate, not signed, not dated and was not made available to the requirements of the New Roads & street Works Act 1991.There is thus no lawful entitlement for the Bank of America to charge and to collect tolls, far less for Miller Civil Engineering.
The legal and political implications of these facts being obvious, we must urge you as our constituency MP in Westminster to bring these matters to the immediate attention of Mr Wallace on behalf of the protesters who have been so badly wronged in this corrupt affair.
The Scottish Office say the tolls are a matter for Westminster until 1st July.
With sincere thanks for your continuing interest and support,
Alasdair MacLean found himself defending a statement by the new minister for the Highlands and Islands, Alastair Morrison, that Skat aren't concerned with the benefits which the twenty journey tickets have brought to the people from Uist and Harris who travel to the mainland through Skye.
"No I don't agree with that at all because when Skat started, three and a half years ago, one of the first things they did was to have what was known as "The Tour of the Hebrides" where they held meetings not only in South Uist, North Uist, but also in Harris and in fact, at the meeting in Harris, they were supported by both Calum MacDonald, the Westminster MP, and Roddy Murray who is now the Vice Convener of the Western Isle Council."
"They travelled down from Stornoway to give us encouragement to carry on with our campaign because they saw it as being beneficial to them and not only to the people of Skye. Which quite clearly shows that Skat has a commitment to represent not only the people of Skye and Lochalsh but also the people of the Western Isles."
Robert Stewart was asked at a recent meeting of Skat to contact the SNP Chief Executive to request their co-operation in order to bring Skat findings before the Scottish Parliament. He received the following reply from Mike Russell MSP, SNP Chief Executive and SNP Business Manager in the Scottish Parliament, in response to the request:
We would be very keen to co-operate with SKAT in it's continuing campaign. This might well include joint research and joint actions, but in the first instance I think there should be a meeting between SKAT and representatives of the new Parliamentary Group.
I know that Irene McGugan is a long standing member and supporter of your organisation, and I suggest that she be the point of contact in the first instance between us. I am copying this to Irene so that she can discuss the issues with me and with you and take things forward.
Michael W Russell MSP.
(Well done Robert!)
The Freeze on Skye Bridge tolls in the official coalition document is being seen by many in the highlands and Islands as an attempt by the Government to avoid debate on the subject in the Scottish Parliament. One who is still determined to fight the Skye Bridge issue is the Liberal Democrat MSP for Skye and Inverness West John Farquhar Munro, one of three Lib Dem MSP's who refused to sign the coalition agreement
"If this is an attempt to quell debate on the bridge it will not work. I was elected on a commitment to abolition and I will continue to fight for that. I will also be pressing for the establishment of an independent inquiry into this particular PFI, which is something I would have thought Mr. Dewar would have welcomed as it would show the public the true nature of the contract he had inherited from the Tories.
I would hope to win support from members across the Parliament for my efforts. There is a lot that is good in the agreement with Labour, but I campaigned particularly strongly on two of our commitments, tuition fees and the Skye Bridge. That was why I could not sign it."
The SNP are also determined to continue the fight. Mrs Winnie Ewing said that a majority of Highlands and Islands MSPs had been elected on a promise to abolish the tolls.
Skat needs all the funds it can get. Support and spread the word row by buying some of our quality merchandise.
Have a look at our SKAT Merchandise.
Although freezing the tolls could save islanders money by the end of the contract, which will be between 12 and 23 and a half years hence, it does nothing to answer fundamental questions about the bridge which refuse to disappear.
a.. Are the Tolls Legal?
b.. Do Miller Civil Engineering have the right to collect them?
The following proposals are listed in order of preference. This is a sole approved and definitive edition of the SKAT position.
SKAT would wish to highlight the fact that its first preference is also the cheapest and quickest. Should the declarator state that the Assignation Statement is not lawful then the regime in it's present form would have to be terminated immediately. If the Toll Order is declared 'Unpublished' then all criminal prosecutions were unsound and any resulting convictions wrongful. If the Toll Period has not been "declared" by the Secretary of State then even he cannot toll the A87 should his Concessionaire be declared without assignation and thus unlawful.
a.. Action for Declarator.
To petition the Court of Session immediately for a declarator on the following matters.
Copies of this statement can be checked by telephoning 01470 521550 or 532309.
Signed on behalf of Skye and Kyle Against Tolls, Andrew M. Millar, Convener.
20 February 1999
Andy's Legal Saga
Further to my last SKAT news report when I pointed out that my case was before the European Court of Human Rights, I have heard nothing at all from the Scottish legal system about the many offences still outstanding under the "New Roads and Street Works Act 1992"and this is presumably because they have stopped using that legislation, but I have not even been asked why I have not paid any fines.
They did however make one mistake; they never removed me from the list of Skye bridge cases, which they postponed (for obvious political reasons) until after the Scottish Election. I managed to stay on the court list, very possibly because I was accused of a traffic offence, which was of course nothing to do with the Skye Bridge.
After 40 years of driving without ever having been charged with a traffic offence I now have several against me, all at the Skye Bridge toll booth, and all for obstruction when I was asking the toll collector what authority his company had to collect tolls.
I wrote to Donald Dewar the then Secretary of State for Scotland in January this year and informed him that I was told to appear in Dingwall Court on the 11th March and again on the 1st April on an alleged traffic offence. I told him that I had been found guilty of such a charge in March'98 and had issued a writ of suspension seeking a legal examination of the procedures, which should have been done within 3 months. This procedure had not been done, nor did I have any idea when it would be, and I asked for his advice and guidance. I sent a copy to the European Court of Human Rights. I did get an acknowledgement from the EC, but nothing from Donald Dewar.
On the 11th of March I got Ian and Colina Willoughby to come with me as witnesses and I went to the bridge at 7.30am. I told the collector that I would not pay any toll until I could see some proof that his firm had authority to collect tolls. He then refused to lift the barrier and called the police. The police arrived at 9 a.m. and approached me with the bridge manager shortly afterwards, again I was asked about payment with the same reply and response at which point the police officer informed me that I would not be allowed to cross through the barrier. I told the police officer that I was required in Dingwall Court, he told me that the police instructions from the fiscal were that those who did not pay were to be refused passage. I thanked the policeman and went home. I then phoned the Fiscal's office and told them I could not attend court because I could not get over the bridge. I have of course written to Donald Dewar and informed him of the situation and I have sent a copy to the European Court of Human Rights.
I am due up in court in Dingwall again on the 1st April, so I shall try to cross the bridge again, it being April Fools day they might let me cross!
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 1999.
Most recent revision, 21 June 1999