He's the godfather of an

A-list star, his son plays professional football, and he has an interest in Phoenician history, but Brian David Robertson will

always be the man they shouldn't

have crossed over the Skye bridge

IT is a CV which surely belongs to a member of the Old Buffers' Society, currently appearing at a snug bar near you. Schooldays with Michael Forsyth, doncha know, on to Aberdeen University, a commission in the RAF, and a special interest in the linguistic legacy of Finno-Ugric. Instead, these are some of the details which help form the man who is a constant irritant to the Scottish legal establishment. It should be added, though, that Robbie the Pict is not the sum merely of these conventional facts, nor a insubstantial, muddle-headed litigator. To understand Robbie, godfather of Leonardo DiCaprio, it must be accepted that he has the intellect to match any judge and a sense of humour that both sustains him and makes him a formidable advocate of his causes.

These characteristics can join forces to provide the kind of ammunition that has the establishment scurrying for cover.

Exhibit one, your honour.

''Have you ever taken the oath of entered apprentice at 1st degree

for the purpose of entering into masonic association or are you obliged by any expectation of loyalty which has the potential to produce an unbalanced judgment in a tribunal such as this?''

As an opening line to three High Court judges, it was almost typical of Robbie, a man with hair down to his shoulders, looking like a country and western singer in a suit.

It may have been funny, but it was certainly clever. It was also different to asking them if they were freemasons. Apparently one can answer in all honesty ''No'' to that question, even if one's trouser leg has been rolled up on occasion. This because, technically speaking, there is no such thing as a freemason. But an inquiry about the oath of entered profession leaves less room for semantic manoeuvre. That's why Robbie the Pict posed the question at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

But a quick adjournment is

needed to discover what kind of man asks such a question and why.

The son of two teachers, Brian David Robertson attended Arbroath High School a few years ahead of Michael Forsyth, who went on to become secretary of state for Scotland. They don't meet up for reunions. Robbie went to Aberdeen University to study psychology. He passed his first-year exams but left because he wanted to fly, having already secured his private pilot's licence, aged 17. He joined the RAF initially as an RAF policeman, which means he is still bound by the Official Secrets Act.

He was granted a commission, but bought himself out after a disagreement and went to work in London for an agency counselling casualties of the hippy culture. He then went to the US with his wife and worked for publishers of underground comics in San Francisco, meeting George DiCaprio, soon to be the father of Leonardo who ended up with a Scottish godfather.

He worked as roadie with rock bands across the US. A run-in with, or rather away from, the highway patrol in 1976 helped him decide it was time to come home where he continued to work in the music industry and as a printer.

He has never lived on the dole. He supports himself by publishing polemical pamphlets and printing T-shirts and car stickers. He always keeps these items in the boot of his ancient Mercedes so he misses few sales opportunities.

It was when he returned to Scotland that he embarked on his crusade, renouncing his UK citizenship on the grounds that it had abused the spirit of the 1707 Act of Union. What had irritated him was the 1981 nationality act which substituted the word citizen for subject. Scots were no longer to be subjects of their own sovereignty. They were citizens and therefore subject to the sovereignty of Westminster.

He started to withhold his road tax in 1981 as a device to draw attention to his constitutional concerns. Eventually the Pictish High Commission was announced to the Queen in April 1984 and in 1987 he was given my acre of land in Skye which he declared Pictland.

He wanted to make the case in court. He bought a left-hand-drive Mercedes, put on a number plate, 222D888, and started parking on double yellow lines in Princes Street at 4.30pm. He did this for three weeks but never got a parking

ticket. It turned out that number had been allocated to the Nigerian embassy.

He was stopped in Perth a few weeks later by a policeman curious about his plates. He was initially charged with impersonating the Nigerian ambassador, but the charge was dropped. Other charges weren't, going all the way up to the High Court.

He has been in conflict with the state ever since, infuriating many, bemusing others. A lapsed member of Mensa, his intellectual ability has never been seriously in doubt. Neither has his courage.

He does have other things in his life. There are the trips to see his son, Gregor, play for Nottingham Forest reserves. Then there is his study of the linguistic legacy of Finno-Ugric in Scotland, his translation of the Newton Stone in Aberdeenshire, and his conversations with a professor in Damascus University about our Phoenician heritage.

But his presence is increasingly felt in the courtroom where he famously asked the question about masonic links.

For the record, Lord Gill, the lord justice clerk, who was on the bench with Lord Kirkwood and Lord Wheatley, replied after a pause: ''We are certainly not going to answer that question right now.''

Robbie knew that Lords Gill and Wheatley, as Roman Catholics, would be highly unlikely to have answered yes any way. He wasn't so sure about Lord Kirkwood.

Robbie was standing on the foothills of another mountain of struggle. He was about to argue a ''secret brotherhood'' embracing some of Scotland's most senior legal, political, and financial figures meant judges presiding over 22 Skye bridge cases had failed

the tests of impartiality demanded by the European Convention of Human Rights, specifically because they were members of the Speculative Society.

This society had been founded in 1764 by a group of Edinburgh luminaries and boasted Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson as members. But it was today's membership that was exercising Robbie.

Robbie wasn't pursuing ''the Spec'' as an end itself. It was just another avenue in his search for a judge to explain how seven pages of type without any signature or date can have any status in law, never mind support a toll regime he claims will see (pounds) 170m in profits flow from Skye to an American bank.

The document is the Assignation Statement which was supposed to assign the legal right parliament had given the secretary of state to charge and collect tolls on the Skye bridge, on to a third party, the Skye Bridge Company. He is convinced this is the smoking gun of the saga, but getting somebody to look down its barrel has understandably proved difficult.

In 1999, he presented his evidence to an appeal court under Lord Sutherland who mentioned in his findings that the Assignation Statement was undated and unsigned, but made no further comment. Despite that, the authorities cite Lord Sutherland's ruling, which does not appear in the columns of the Scots Law Times, as the answer to all questions.

After seven and a half years, Robbie has just about exhausted the Scottish courts, in more ways than one. Lord Gill has still to rule but, reluctantly, the Pict is preparing to go to Europe.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday he will address Holyrood's petitions committee in the hope that it will refer the legal questions to the justice committee and ask the audit committee to see why a (pounds) 10.5m bridge will end up costing the taxpayer (pounds) 177m.

It has been a long struggle. It has probably been even longer for his estimable girlfriend, Stella.

Robbie, 55, is convinced that there are some very powerful forces against him and others have confirmed strange noises on the phone. But he is determined to go on: ''I remain convinced that some day we will find one fair Scottish judge to give us a fair hearing.''

When observing the Pict going about his business, it is difficult not to recall Gilbert Harding visiting the USA during the McCarthy period. When asked whether his activities would be liable to undermine the security of the state, he answered that it was the sole purpose of his visit.