The protests against tolls on the Skye Road Bridge is to feature in a new TV series.
BBC Scotland is turning the spotlight on stories of protests in Scotland which grabbed the headlines – and left lasting effects on the communities involved.
On 22 October, The Battle of Skye Bridge will be shown on BBC Scotland, from 10–11pm.
After centuries of boats sailing over the sea to Skye, in 1995 a new bridge was built between the island and the mainland. Increased vehicle traffic had been causing frustratingly long queues for both tourists and islanders as they waited for berths on the ferries. The completion of the iconic bridge was seen by many as the route to economic prosperity for Skye. However the impressive work of civil engineering did not receive a universal welcome as it became clear that this was to be the most expensive toll bridge in Europe.
Locals launched a campaign that resulted in years of dissent, headlines and legal tussles. The Battle of Skye Bridge tells the story of the islanders’ protests against the hated tolls, their struggles with the law, and after nearly a decade of campaigning – their final, euphoric victory, when tolls were removed in December 2004.
The documentary features footage from the time which hasn’t been seen before, contributions from protesters and authorities alike, and explosive courtroom developments about a legal process that is still being contested to this day.
It’s a David and Goliath story, told by those who were there – including Robbie the Pict, one of the campaign’s leading lights, and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, the government minister at the time responsible for the project – and set against the stunning backdrop of Skye and the Highlands. Made for BBC Scotland by Tern Television, The Battle of Skye Bridge, charts the remarkable campaign of local activists who refused to give up.
The series begins on Tuesday, 15 October, with The Rise and Fall of Timex Dundee, which gets the inside track on what is widely regarded as the last full-blooded strike in the country.
It was triggered by Timex bosses’ decision to lay off staff, including several shop stewards, from a factory in Dundee. The workforce in the Camperdown plant was predominantly female and their reminiscences resonate throughout this compelling documentary.
For most, working for Timex had previously been a source of pride, good pay and conditions over decades. Generations of Dundonian women worked for ‘the’ Timex, many of them putting to good use the dextrous skills they had developed in the jute industry.
However the story of Timex in Dundee would end in betrayal and anger. Police officers who stood between the sacked workers and the buses and cars bringing in the ‘scabs’ also reflect on a bitter dispute which left deep divisions.
The opinions of the former strikers are divided on whether the arrival of large numbers of outside activists to the picket line was helpful or damaging to the cause.
This month there’ll also be another chance to see Power to the People, the series which covers a hundred years of campaigning to establish workers’ power in Scotland, and Nae Pasaran, the film which tells the story of the boycott of Chilean engines by East Kilbride workers during the Pinochet era.
- Click HERE to read more culture news and features from Scottish Field