Skye & Kyle Against Tolls Newsletter

November 2003

Skye & Kyle Against Tolls Established 1995


At last ! The Scottish Executive announces that its representatives are now in detailed discussions with Skye Bridge Ltd., with a view to negotiating a buy out of the toll concession. SKAT considers this a major achievement in its campaign to get rid of the "discredited toll regime". Has the Scottish Executive, we wonder, finally opened its eyes and looked at the real cost of the Skye Bridge PFI and its tolls ?

Much has been happening in the past year in relation to the tolls on the Skye Bridge and, as we approach the end of 2003, the eighth year of our campaign, it looks as though there is some hope that our efforts will be rewarded as a result of the talks now taking place.

In November 2002 SKAT Vice-Convenor, Amelia Simonini, was invited to attend a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee by Convenor Des McNulty. This meeting was part of a consultation process in which interested groups were given the opportunity to put forward their views. These views were later taken into consideration by the Finance Committee as they drew up their budgetary recommendations to the Scottish Executive for the next 3 years.

Amelia, together with three other SKAT representatives, took the opportunity at the Finance Committee meeting to emphasise the points in SKAT's economic argument, e.g., to show that the toll concession might be bought out for £23 million as opposed to the Scottish Executive paying £39 million in subsidies over the next 19 years. This, and other economic facts, presented to MSP members of the Committee drew responses of surprise and disbelief.

Of course, SKAT had written to MSPs on this aspect of the tolls before. However, at the Finance Committee meeting, we were able to get their undivided attention for long enough to show that maintaining the Skye Bridge tolls was actually costing the Government money and this seemed to touch on an area close to their hearts.

The Scottish Parliamentary Elections on May 1st this year, with the preceding 6 week election campaign period, inevitably delayed the Executive's response to SKAT's submission. However, in June, once the newly elected Parliament was up and running, SKAT received a letter confirming that the Scottish Executive Partnership Agreement (between Labour and the Liberal-Democrat parties) contained a commitment to "review existing Bridge tolls and enter into negotiations with a view to ending the discredited toll regime for the Skye Bridge".

Throughout the year, SKAT's arguments have been echoed by our local government representatives in Highland Council who are also committed to getting the tolls removed and HC Convenor, Alison Magee, also brought pressure to bear on the Scottish Executive. This support was greatly appreciated by SKAT.

SKAT has understandably become somewhat cynical and disillusioned over the years with politicians' promises. However, allowing for a lot of reading between the lines - as one does with political rhetoric - the carefully chosen words sound a little different and it begins to look as though that great motivator - money ! - has finally concentrated the Scottish Executive minds wonderfully.

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SKAT's own Gothic tale of haunting terror and fear from the windswept mountains and shores of the Misty Isle !!

The Story so far:-

The Lochalsh Monster, created by The Wicked Witch and her gang of dwarfs who worshiped the god, Monetarism, in a land far to the south, was devouring huge amounts of the local peasants' sustenance. The Wicked Witch had been defeated in battle by Tony the Smile who had promised the peasants that if he got the wicked witch’s wand he would kill the monster. Tony’s clan, however, had now befriended the monster, and had protected it from the few brave knights who tried to slay it. Farquhar the Brave, the boldest knight in the whole kingdom, had made many courageous attempts to slay the Monster but had failed so far to win the support of even his own clan chief. Some Really Brainy People from the Napier’s Magic Circle in Edinburgh. had studied the Monster and had discovered that it was too greedy and was eating up all the peasants' produce. Everyone now knew that the ignorant peasants had been right all the time.

Now read on:-

When the tournament season came round again, all the brave knights from the various clans reasserted their courage to challenge the ugly monster. Many of these challenges were, it must be admitted, issued from strong hiding places, or so tied up with conditions or qualifications that they would be quite ineffective on the monster, but might mollify the ignorant peasants.

So Farquhar-the-Brave mounted his charger, boldly announcing that he would refuse to join in the victory cèilidh with his clan and the neighbouring clan if they did not agree to attack the monster.

The battle was fierce and bloody; many bold knights were slain. The largest clan committed to killing the monster if they got the magic wand suffered heavy losses. Gallant knights, such as Andrew-the-Abacus, were killed on the battlefield. His clan chief, John-008 (a close friend of 007) survived the battle and was carried wounded off the field. Tony the Smile’s clan also suffered heavy casualties. One of their bold knights, Jack’s Son-the-Crusher-of-Firefighters, was also killed. He had become famous for his vigorous opposition to giving the firefighters a decent wage, preferring to use the money to feed the Lochalsh monster and all its PFI descendants. He had, however, told everyone the Secret of All Firefighter’s Fatherhood and for this he was forced to resign from the Round Table.

Two small clans did well in the battle, capturing a lot of ground. Tommy-of-the Bronze-Skin led one of these clans, while the other, the Jolly-Green-Giant clan, were too democratic to have a leader at all. Both these new clans wanted to break the spell of the wand from the wicked witch’s kingdom.

When the battle was over, Tony-the-Smile’s clan and the clan of Charlie-of-the-Thousand Programmes once again decided to share the power of the magic wand. Farquhar-the-Brave came back from the war in high spirits; he had dispatched all his opponents and won a clear victory. Farquhar the Brave was in no mood for compromise, he wanted the monster attacked and attacked now.

Farquhar’s clan gathered behind him, some indeed were so far behind him that they disappeared out of the picture - Charlie-of-the-Thousand-Programmes among them.

Immediately after it was agreed that there should be a council of war to decide how to fight the Monster, some of Tony-the-Smile’s clan were claiming Farquhar’s plan was useless and would not work. The ignorant peasants watched in wonder at the antics being performed by the politicians who, with all their magical powers, seemed unable to understand simple facts of life.

However, eventually the clans sharing the power of the magic wand agreed that the poor peasants of Skye really had suffered badly at the hands (or claws !) of the Monster and decided that they might send a small troop of Mercenaries into the Monster's territory. These Mercenaries were trained in the strategy and tactics of special martial arts. This meant they were much better at negotiating tricky combat situations with economy-gobbling Monsters than the simple-minded politicians, most of whom could just about cope with fighting for their own political lives.

On hearing this, the poor peasants of Skye really felt for the first time in years that there might be a glimmer of hope for them. Of course, the Clansmen were not yet ready to reveal news about what was happening on the battlefield far away between the Mercenaries and the Monster. They were obviously afraid that their troop of Mercenaries might be overpowered by the Monster and defeated by the sheer size of its voracious jaws. Better to wait for the secret dispatch informing the Clansmen of success or failure. Then they could dramatise the details of the brave Mercenaries' victory and the defeat of the slobbering Monster or of the brave Mercenaries' self-sacrifice and the unstoppable might of the Monster - depending on the final outcome.

Meanwhile, the poor peasants waited quietly, hoping and praying that with the vernal equinox, when the sun again climbed high in the sky, that people from all over the world who had stayed away from their beautiful island for fear of the Monster, would come back again, bringing with them lots and lots of lovely money and the people of Skye could, once again, earn their living. Would their prayers be answered?

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In October this year, two SKAT representatives attended, for the first time, a meeting of Scottish Civic Forum and SKAT members Ian and Colina Willoughby addressed the group, giving an excellent talk on SKAT's origins and activities over the last 8 years.

Scottish Civic Forum (SCF) is an organization set up by the Scottish Executive to encourage participation in the government of Scotland. Groups, such as SKAT, can become members of the Forum which provides the opportunity for a wide range of views to be put forward to the Scottish Executive as a complementary but independent contribution to its planning and policies.

Ian and Colina were among a group who gathered in a house in Skye in the summer of 1995 to discuss what action could be taken about the forthcoming imposition of the highest tolls in Europe on the Skye Bridge. The consequence of that informal meeting was the founding of what shortly afterwards became SKAT. The Willoughbys were two of the first protesters to drive across the Bridge just after midnight on 16th October 1995 and to be charged with refusal to pay the tolls and they have been among the most loyal and active members throughout SKAT's eight years' existence.

On arriving at SCF, Ian and Colina were warmly welcomed by representatives of SCF and by other single issue groups such as the Uig Development Association, the anti-GM movement and a group promoting the Gaelic language, in an informal and friendly setting in Caley Thistle Boardroom, Inverness.

Although the issues were diverse, the groups shared an interest in each other's tactics and strategies for gaining the Government's attention and in fighting for a cause. However, all were particularly fascinated to hear from the Willoughbys about the origins, constitution, structure and progress of SKAT which is, of course, now one of the most well known protest groups in Britain.

All the information that Ian and Colina were able to give to SCF will be considered in further consultations between SCF Council and Government representatives, thus creating an access for SKAT's viewpoints to be heard by the Scottish Executive.

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What !!  No Toll barrier ??

Local SKAT members have been fascinated by the absence, for over 2 months, of  the toll barrier on the approach to Skye.  Chats with the Toll staff have elicited the information that the barrier is worn out from over work.  There is, however, no mention of when it will be back in operation.  SKAT is bound to wonder if Skye Bridge Ltd. feel the cost of repairing it might not be worth while.

So now the only thing stopping free access across the Bridge is the red traffic light where the barrier used to be.   SKAT, of course, would never dream of inciting anyone to break the law  (you might get done for going through a red light as well as not paying the tolls).   However, we know one SKATTIE who has done this on several occasions and was charged for the first time recently when police caught up with him about 10 miles up the road in Broadford.

Meantime SKAT  Secretary, Andy Anderson, is assisting  Andy Whyte, a Lecturer in Law at Paisley College, who managed  to get off Skye without paying till the police caught up with him in Fort William.  Curiously, Mr. Whyte was charged under the New Roads and Streetworks, 1991, the first charge of this kind for some years.  Mr. Whyte was, of course, found guilty and currently has an appeal pending. 

Public support for SKAT campaign continues

 On 27th September,  SKAT members distributed leaflets at the Bridge Toll barrier.  The leaflets asked whether visitors felt hurt at having to pay £5.70 to cross the Bridge and advising them on who to e-mail their complaints to.  Our members reported a very successful day and strong support from the public.

If you would like to add your voice and   pressure to our campaign in this way you can e-mail:-

Nicol Stephen, Scottish Transport Minister, -


Chas. Kennedy, Ross, Skye & Inverness West MP   -


and tell them exactly

            Recent reports in the press have tried to suggest a conflict of interest between SKAT and other groups in the Highlands and Islands.  A London-based paper suggested that one group thought the £400 million 'claw back' money from last year's Scottish Executive underspend should be used to buy out the Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd. PFI at Inverness instead of  buying out the concession for the Bridge tolls.  Another Glasgow paper suggested that taking the tolls off the Bridge could attract all traffic coming to Skye via that route and that the Mallaig-Armadale Ferry might be withdrawn.  However, further enquiry revealed that Highland Councillors in these areas are all agreed that the Bridge tolls must come off, that there is no need to compete as there is money enough for both projects.  Also,  CAL MAC Ferries have given assurances that  the Mallaig-Armadale Ferry is secure, regardless of the tolls.
how you feel about the tolls !!













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SECRETARY – Andy Anderson,  Tel. 01470 542 365  


VICE-CONVENOR – Amelia Simonini,   Tel. 01471 844 314


TREASURER – Dorothy Pearce,  Tel. 01478 613065


FUTURE SKAT MEETINGS   Normally the last Saturday of each month

If you would like to attend a SKAT meeting, pleaee contact one of our Office bearers



Visitors to our website will know that SKAT's campaign has been going for 8 years.  In that time, our activists have worked hard to get the tolls removed and progress has been made.  In recent years, SKAT has focused its campaign on the economic argument, i.e., it would be cheaper to buy out the tolls than maintain them, and on a political solution, i.e., only the Government has the authority to resolve the problem.  The Scottish Government is now giving serious consideration to these points.  

It is, therefore, vital that we maintain pressure on the Government at this stage and for this we still need funds.  Not surprisingly, after 8 long years, our bank balance has dwindled and SKAT is, therefore, asking you to dig into your pockets and send a donation, however small,to our Treasurer;-







You can, of course, make a direct payment to us at Bank of Scotland, Account No. 00859102, Branch code 80-09-47


If sending cheques from outwith the UK, please send this in the form of a Banker's cheque in pounds sterling made out to S.K.A.T.;  bank charges for exchanging currencies are so high they are sometimes greater than the value of the cheque.    Also please be sure to enter the account no. 00859102, Branch code 80-09-47 at Bank of Scotland. Any donation you can give will be greatly appreciated and will help us in what we sincerely hope will be the final stages of our long and hard fought battle to get the tolls removed from the Skye Bridge and to restore the economy of Skye to a reasonable level.



I enclose a cheque no…………../postal order no…………. …

as contribution to SKAT funds.



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Copyright © Ray Shields, 2003.

Most recent revision, 25 November 2003