Environment and sustainable transport charities today welcomed the news that Road Sense campaigner William Walton, who is challenging the proposed Aberdeen Bypass in court, has had his legal costs capped at £0.

Judges at the Court of Session today accepted an understanding reached by Mr Walton’s legal representatives and those representing Scottish Ministers, which will mean that Mr Walton will not have to pay the other side’s costs should he lose his forthcoming appeal in the Court of Session, and the Scottish Government will pay the costs of of Mr Walton’s legal representatives should he win.

Stan Blackley, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“This is very welcome news and the legal representatives of both Mr Walton and the Scottish Government are to be praised for reaching such a progressive understanding. Mr Walton is just practicing his democratic right to challenge an environmentally damaging decision through the courts. This agreement to limit his costs sets an important precedent in allowing affordable access to justice for someone who has put their livelihood at risk to act in the public interest.”

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, added:

“Mr Walton has suffered appalling personal attacks in recent months, yet he has done nothing wrong and has only ever followed due process in the most reasonable fashion. He is to be applauded for not being dissuaded by the vitriol levelled against him. The proposed Aberdeen Bypass is not the solution to the transport problems of the north east, and the project has been badly managed and poorly conceived from day one. Mr Walton is correct to challenge it.”

Earlier this year, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Transform Scotland called on the First Minister to apologise to Mr Walton for remarks he made to the Press and Journal newspaper.

At today’s meeting of the Court of Session, the judges referred to the First Minister’s conduct in this regard and questioned the First Minister’s intent, suggesting that it could be interpreted as one party in a court case seeking to dissuade another from taking forward litigation by applying pressure outwith the court room. This approach could be interpreted as being in contempt of court.

Stan Blackley added:

“We maintain that the First Minister should have apologised to Mr Walton for his remarks to the Press and Journal newspaper. Our opinion is that what he said, and how he said it, came very close to contempt of court, and this opinion appears to us to have been supported by the judges today. Mr Salmond still has an opportunity to apologise to Mr Walton, and we would urge him to consider doing so.”

Mr Walton’s appeal hearing is scheduled to take place between 13-16 December 2011. Mr Walton will still be liable for his own costs in the case should his appeal be unsuccessful.

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact: Per Fischer, Press Office, Friends of the Earth Scotland
 t: 0131 243 2719

Notes to Editors

1. Friends of the Earth Scotland is Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation, an independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland, and part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups – covering every continent.
 www.foe-scotland.org.uk

2. Transform Scotland campaigns for better transport policies and practice which will directly benefit everyone living in our society. We are a membership organisation which undertakes media work, events and projects to highlight the benefits of sustainable transport.
www.transformscotland.org.uk

3. The Road Sense campaign represents the interests of all the communities that would be affected by the proposed route for the Aberdeen Bypass. www.road-sense.org

4. First Minister should apologise say environment and transport groups – Friends of the Earth Scotland press release September 2011: www.foe-scotland.org.uk/news150911 in response to the following report in the Press and Journal newspaper: www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2434126