New minister Keith Brown has bridge toll conviction

Image caption,
Keith Brown made reference to his conviction in his maiden speech

The new Scottish transport secretary was convicted of not paying the Skye bridge toll in the mid-1990s.

Keith Brown took over from Stewart Stevenson after he resigned in the wake of heavy snow which hit Scotland.

Campaigners fighting to clear the names of 130 non-toll payers are now appealing to Mr Brown to help them.

A spokesman for Mr Brown said the government would not comment on the matter, but he said the minister was part of the popular toll ban campaign.

He explained: "Keith Brown was part of the successful community campaign to abolish tolls on the Skye Bridge, which were set up by the Tories and presided over for years by the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration at scandalously sky-high levels.

"Of course, the SNP government also abolished tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges."

In his maiden speech at Holyrood in 2007, Mr Brown admitted he had been convicted of not paying the toll.

He told the parliament: "Indeed, I was convicted for refusing to pay the Skye bridge toll back in the mid-1990s.

"The Skye bridge toll campaign was another successful campaign to get rid of unjust tolls.

"It would be nice if the Lord Advocate were to consider quashing my conviction and those of others who opposed that disgraceful toll, but I suppose that she could just as easily come after me for the £50 fine that I have not paid in 12 years."

Campaigners representing the dozens of toll non-payers welcomed Mr Brown's appointment, and they have told him that they are willing to share their research into the toll regime with him.

Image caption,
Tolls are no longer operational on the Skye Bridge

They have always claimed the tolls were illegal. They also want millions of pounds paid in tolls returned to the Skye community.

The Labour/Lib Dem Scottish Executive abolished the controversial Skye Bridge tolls in 2004 after it bought back the bridge from its private owners for £27m.

The charges had been in force since the span opened in October 1995 and had been bitterly opposed by protesters.

Former Marine

As Mr Brown started his new role on Monday, he said he acknowledge there "are lessons to be learned" following the bad weather which left Scotland gridlocked.

The former skills minister told the media: "My focus as new transport minister is to ensure everything possible is being done to keep Scotland moving.

"I have met and heard from a range of agencies today all involved in the task at hand to ensure we are as prepared as we can be to respond to the forecasted change of weather.

"All of those involved know we must be ready and are straining every sinew to be prepared."

Mr Brown, a former Marine who served in the Falklands, has been an MSP since 2007.

He served for 11 years as a councillor in Clackmannanshire and led the local authority from 1999 to 2003.

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