Campaigners Lose Court Challenge

Campaigners against tolls on the Skye Bridge have lost a court bid challenging the legality of collecting crossing charges. Four protesters argued that the toll collectors' employers, Miller Civil Engineering, had no lawful authority to collect the money for crossing without the written consent of the Secretary of State.

However, three judges hearing their appeal in Edinburgh called their action "misconceived" and said that such consent was implied. The four, who were convicted over non-payment of the charges, which have been the subject of protest since the bridge was opened, had turned to the appeal judges to challenge the basis for collecting the tolls. They argued that, under the main agreement drawn up for the privately-financed bridge, the written consent of the Scottish Secretary was needed for subcontracting of the bridge firm's rights.

They said that under a subsidiary operations agreement there was no direct written authorisation given to the company to collect the tolls. Margaret Scott, who represented two campaigners, said that there was a breach of the requirement for written consent and the arrangement was therefore void. Miss Scott said the public was entitled to be told who was charging the tolls and what authority they had to collect them.

Tolls on the Skye Bridge, she said, were being collected by a third party which had not been publicly identified. Miss Scott said that in the absence of any clear authority for employees of Miller Civil Engineering to collect tolls, anyone crossing the bridge was entitled to refuse to pay.

However, Lord Sutherland, sitting with Lord Marnoch and Lord Cowie, said the submission by the veteran campaigner known as Robbie the Pict, Alexander Smith, Andrew McMorrine and Andrew Miler, was "misconceived".

The senior judge said that the decision of the Skye Bridge company to subcontract the collection of tolls did not require the Secretary of State's consent. Even if his consent was required the judge said he was satisfied that he had given implied consent as it was plain that he was aware of the operating agreement drawn up for the bridge.

He told the protesters: "I am satisfied that nothing has been put before this court to show any ground for saying that the authority of Miller Civil Engineering to collect the tolls on behalf of Skye Bridge Ltd can be impugned."

Click HERE to read Lord Sutherlands full opinion report on the appeal.

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Copyright Ray Shields, 1999.

Most recent revision, 20 December 1999