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Friday, May 14, 1999 Published at 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK


Skye bridge tolls pegged

There has been a huge campaign against the tolls

BBC Scotland's Iain MacDonald reports from Inverness.

Skye Bridge tolls are set to be frozen by the government for the duration of the remaining toll period.

The BBC understands that the announcement on tolls is imminent and that it is not dependent on the deal between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Iain MacDonald reports on the Skye Bridge move
Labour sources say that Donald Dewar and his Scottish team have been talking to Highland MSPs since last week's elections and an announcement on freezing tolls is expected.

Shortly after Labour took power, Mr Dewar, in announcing price cuts for local residents, said that the reductions were as far as he could go at that time.

Traffic volumes

But it's understood that traffic volumes and financial performance on the crossing have been higher than expected and the government's made it plain in private it's now prepared to underwrite the permanent freezing of prices.

The deal is not believed to be contingent on a Lib-Lab agreement at the Scottish Parliament, though Liberal Democrat negotiators are understood to have indicated their support.

It's also thought that first minister nominee Donald Dewar is considering other rural initiatives in the short term, including further action on rural transport and possible appeal systems for farmers who've lost grant support.

Anti-tolls group

Alistair MacLean, spokesman for anti-tolls group SKAT, said he was puzzled by the decision.

He said: "Certainly it seems strange that if this has come out from the Labour Party eight days after the election, and they had known the bridge was making so much money, why didn' t they freeze the tolls before the election?"

"What I strongly suspect is they really don't have a clue what is going on and they make up the rules as they go along."

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