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21 December 04
MSP Rob Gibson Calls For Fines and Convictions Over Skye Bridge To Be Quashed

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands added his voice to congratulate the people of Skye and the Outer Isles for being liberated from Skye Bridge tolls.

Rob was one of many SKAT protesters who was arrested and fined for non-payment in 1997.

He said..." I am delighted the islanders and all visitors to Skye and the Outer Isles have been rid of the draconian toll regime, but the fact that the tolls existed for 9 years is nothing short of scandalous and deplorable when you consider the vast personal cost incurred by people who had to pay to use the bridge especially those who lived in the in Skye and Lochalsh ."

He continued...."To my knowledge I am the only MSP with a criminal record for non-payment at the Kyle of Lochalsh toll booth. Many people were fined for tolls non-payment. I paid a �100 fines for two offences and hope that all outstanding prosecutions will be stopped immediately."

He added "Citizens from all Scotland showed solidarity with Skye and received a conviction for doing so, so I will be asking the Law Officers of the Government to quash existing convictions for non-payment."

21 December 04
Sky Bridge Tolls Abolished

Skye Bridge tolls were abolished today with immediate effect.  Speaking in Kyleakin where he met local schoolchildren, the First Minister Jack McConnell said: "As an islander, I am delighted that today marks the end of the discredited toll regime on the Skye Bridge.

"This is the start of a new era for Skye. Instead of the Bridge being a symbol of controversy - it can now be a symbol for growth and prosperity.  "A toll-free bridge will boost tourism and commerce - to the benefit not only of the Skye and Lochalsh economy, but also across the Highlands as a whole."  

The Skye Bridge was opened nine years ago having been built as one of the first private finance projects. Tolls have been in place for all that time until today.

Transport Minister Nicol Stephen, said: "This is a historic day for everyone on Skye. We made a commitment last year to end the tolls on Skye bridge. Today that promise has been delivered.

"The abolition of tolls sweeps away a source of deep division and genuine injustice. Today's announcement is a major commitment to the highlands of Scotland and to our island and rural communities."

The payment to Skye Bridge Ltd is expected to be around �27 million. The final figure will be known after December 31 when the final audited accounts of SBL are prepared.

The Executive takes formal responsibility for the bridge from January 1, 2005, and future maintenance will be carried out by BEAR on behalf of the Executive.

The decision to remove the tolls was taken following the completion of the first phase of the bridges review which looked at how tolls impact on environmental and economic objectives of reducing pollution and congestion.

It showed that the removal of tolls on the Skye Bridge would have no adverse traffic or environmental effects.

The work allowed Ministers to take an early decision to remove the tolling regime on Skye bridge.

The traffic context and potential implications of changing or removing tolls on the other bridges in Scotland are more complicated and require further consideration before any decisions are made.

Erskine plays a key role in the economic regeneration of West Dunbartonshire. In the East, Forth and Tay bridges are vital links from Fife to the cities of Dundee and Edinburgh and beyond and there are significant local congestion issues.

The second phase of the review will consider these specific congestion issues as well as how Erskine Bridge might help in meeting the challenge of reducing congestion at the Clyde Tunnel and the Kingston Bridge in the centre of Glasgow.

Commerzbank AG were appointed in January 2004 to identify and analyse options for the future of tolling at Skye.

This work was essential before negotiations with SBL to end the tolling regime could begin. The final negotiations were carried out between Executive officials and directors of SBL.

8 June 04
SSP Congratulate SKAT

Scottish Socialist Party MSP Carolyn Leckie today congratulated campaign group SKAT on their successful fight against the Skye Bridge tolls and backed their call for an immediate end to the tolls.   Carolyn said: "We welcome Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace's pledge to end the Skye > Bridge tolls later this year but we'd like to know why it can't be done now.

The people of Skye have paid far too high a price already.  "We congratulate SKAT and the people of Skye for their determ ned and courageous campaign against the tolls."  "I was delighted to be able to contribute to the campaign through the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee.  "The Executive's announcement is a victory not just for the people of Skye but for campaigners across Scotland who are fighting against the involvement of private profiteers in our transport, schools, hospitals and prisons.   "We call on everyone who opposes New Labour's free market agenda, who > doesn't want to see a repeat of the Skye Bridge fiasco, to back the Scottish

7 June 04
Skye Bridge Tolls May Be Gone By End Of 2004
The Highland Council Convener Councillor Alison Magee has welcomed the statement by Depute First Minister Jim Wallace that the Scottish Executive aims to achieve its goal of removing tolls on the Skye Bridge by the end of this year.  Councillor Magee said: �This is the most positive statement we have received from the Scottish Executive on the removal of the tolls and it is very welcome indeed. We can only hope that Mr Wallace is able to deliver in the timescale he has indicated in the Scottish Parliament.�
The removal of tolls on the Skye Bridge has been a major campaigning issue for the Council since it was set up in 1996. It is a standing item on the agenda of the full council.
At their last meeting, Councillors expressed their concern that proposals by the Executive to remove the toll regime appeared to have been delayed by a review of toll charges on all road bridges in Scotland. They also agreed to investigate petitioning the Court of Session for a judicial review of the tolling regime on the Skye Bridge. Head of Legal Services Malcolm McRae was asked to prepare a report for the next meeting of the Council on 24 June detailing the legal process and the likely costs involved
The Convener paid tribute to the persistence of John Farquhar Munro, MSP for Ross Skye and Inverness West, in keeping the issue to the forefront of debate in the Parliament.

Over The Sea To Skye  With 6� West
A great new service from Portree to Gairloch or vice versa.  From June 2004 it is possible to take a trip from Gairloch to Skye and back on a new  high speed jet boat.  One way tickets cost �10 and the boat can take 36 passengers.  The boat also undertakes short cruises in the area.  In future years the service will operate April - October.  www.overtheseatoskye.com

7 June 04
The annual Interskola Conference, which brings together delegates from Europe with an interest in education in rural communities, is returning to the Highlands this summer.  It is to be held on the island of Skye from 25 to 31 July 2004 at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic-Medium College, Sleat, partner with the University of the Highlands and Islands.
This year delegates will have the opportunity to visit an island community which has experienced recent rejuvenation and a rekindling of traditional values.  The international dimension, not only in Highland, but also in Scottish education will be considered, with speakers from HMIE and Learning and Teaching Scotland.   Representatives from The Highland Council will attend and take part and there will be discussions on the role which developments in �e-learning� are likely to play in the future sustainability of education in rural areas.  
A visit to Ardnamurchan High School has been organised, during which delegates will see how Information and Communication Technology has been built into the learning experience of pupils.   They will also be informed about the success there of the nationally debated Public Private Partnership programme to build new schools across Scotland.
Bruce Robertson, Director of Education Culture and Sport, The Highland Council, said:  "We are delighted and honoured that Interskola has returned to Highland. The venue at Sabhal Mor Ostaig is spectacular and the programme should also give delegates a great insight to education in the Highlands of Scotland. We all can learn lots from experiences from other countries and this should be a memorable week."

7 June 04
Touching The Awards

Club Film on Skye has had its quality programme of films recognised for a second year running by the British Federation of Film Societies. It is celebrating this with a special showing of �Touching the Void� this weekend.  At the recent award ceremony in London, Club Film was named �Runner-up� in the award for Best Film Programme 2004. Last year, Club Film entered for the first time and won.
In an excellent example of the sort of film that the Club is bringing to an enthusiastic audience in Skye, it is screening the epic mountaineering film �Touching the Void� this Saturday and Sunday in its venue at Sabhal M�r Ostaig, the Gaelic College.
Part of Club Film�s success is in welcoming figures from the film industry at screenings. �Touching the Void� will be introduced by Justine Wright, the film�s editor, who will then take part in a question and answer session at the end.
Club Film�s second season comes to an end in June with screenings of �The Time of the Gypsies� and �Whisky Galore�.
Club Film operates full Dolby sound-surround at 35 mm projection on a large screen in the main venue of Sabhal M�r Ostaig, the Gaelic College in south Skye. Club Film was inspired by Chris Young, the film producer living in south Skye. It screens around 20 films each year and is organised and operated by a group of volunteers in the community.