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Last Updated: Monday, 3 May, 2004, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Bridge protesters renewing fight
Skye Bridge
The coalition executive has vowed to scrap the tolls
Opponents of controversial toll charges on the Skye Bridge are renewing their "can pay, won't pay" campaign.

The move comes a year after the Scottish Executive conceded tolls were discredited and began moves to buy out the consortium which owns the bridge.

The bridge, opened eight years ago, was privately built by a commercial group led by the Bank of America.

The bridge company is recouping its 23m investment by charging the highest bridge tolls per mile in Europe.

Lucrative contract

The Skye Bridge has been the subject of controversy since it opened in October 1995.

More than 27m has been collected from drivers and protesters argue that the bridge has paid for itself many times over.

After last year's Scottish Parliament elections the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition launched a review, with the aim of negotiating a buy-out of that lucrative contract.

Last October, in a letter to the Highland MSP John Farquhar Munro, the Transport Minister Nicol Stephen confirmed that independent consultants were to meet management from the Skye Bridge Company.

Mr Farquhar Munro said at the time that he was hopeful a solution would be found by Christmas.

I would have thought we must be nearing the end of the negotiations and hopefully a decision arrived at in the not too distant future.
John Farquhar Munro
Highland MSP
He now says that he is "disappointed" by the speed of progress.

"I imagined that Christmas was sufficient time to hold the negotiations," he said.

"However, that has not been the case and I accept that these negotiations can be rather cumbersome and protracted.

"But I would have thought we must be nearing the end of the negotiations and hopefully a decision arrived at in the not too distant future."

The Scottish Executive said the negotiations were at an advanced stage and a ministerial statement would be made in due course.

In the meantime, opponents of the tolls, who fought a vigorous campaign for years, are going back to the barricades.

Andy Anderson was the first man to be jailed for refusing to pay the tolls and he is once again staging protests over the charge.

He said he was prepared to go back to jail if that is what it takes.

"If they were foolish enough to do that to me again, I am stupid enough to accept it," he said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Iain MacDonald
"It's nine years since the first mass march across the bridge"



SEE ALSO:
Toll removal 'threatens ferries'
12 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Skye tolls set to be scrapped
30 Oct 03  |  Scotland
Skye toll complaint goes to fiscal
31 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Secret society case dismissed
13 Mar 03  |  Scotland
MPs reject Skye toll claims
05 Dec 01  |  Scotland


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