Battle of the Skye Bridge Tolls told in TV documentary

The Battle of the Skye Bridge is told in a BBC ALBA New Year's Day documentary.
The Battle of the Skye Bridge is told in a BBC ALBA New Year's Day documentary.

THE EPIC, feel-good story of a modern rebellion is told in An Drochaid / The Bridge Rising’ as in their campaign against the tolls on the Skye Bridge, plucky Scottish islanders took on the might of the government and the Bank of America – and WON!

A funny, bittersweet tale of passion, ego, and multi-million financial deals, the tale is told through the first-hand testimony of some of those who took part.

The Skye Bridge was the UK’s first Private Finance Initiative, making an estimated £33m for the Bank of America.

In January 2004, the tollbooths on the Skye Bridge were removed - after ten years of protest, hundreds of arrests, and one of the longest-running uprisings in modern Scottish history.

You no longer have to pay to go over the Bridge, but do you know why? 

‘The Bridge Rising’ is packed with humor, twists and surprises. Telling the inside story for the first time, this film takes you behind closed doors at the main turning-points of the Skye Bridge story.

Many of the key players tell their tale, from protesters to politicians, toll-collector to engineer, civil servant to police.

And revelations include Skye police sergeant Dennis Hyndman commenting on arresting his neighbours when they refused to pay the tolls: “If I hadn’t been a police officer I would have been down there protesting along with the rest of them,” he said.

Former Labour Minister Brian Wilson also comments on some of the campaign ringleaders, saying: “The attempts of a few individuals to portray themselves as folk heroes are not taken seriously by anybody.

“The egos were the size of the Cuillins, and I think the inevitability of them falling out was pretty strong.”

The documentary explores a split in the protest campaign, the two factions led by Robbie the Pict and Andy Anderson, who still do not talk; and captures the campaigners’ sense of fun and mischief during the campaign: Drew Miller describes the atmosphere on the first day he went to court for refusing to pay the toll: “It was like going to the Shinty cup final, or your first pantomime.”

And viewers hear from the other side of the dock as David Hingston, the Procurator Fiscal who dealt with the prosecutions against protesters recalls: “Their stated intention was to bring Dingwall Sheriff Court to its knees.

“It started as a flood and became an avalanche. That left me holding the baby, with the bathwater running out very rapidly.”

‘An Drochaid / The Bridge Rising’ is an ambitious film, directed and produced by award-winning film-makers Robbie Fraser and Louise Scott, it screens on Gaelic channel BBC ALBA on Tuesday, January 1st, at 8.05pm.

The documentary will be repeated on Sunday, January 6th, at 8.30pm.