This year marks the tenth anniversary of the end of the tolls on the Skye Bridge. The Skye Bridge protest was one of the longest-running uprisings in modern Scottish history one that is hugely relevant to a new generation in 2014, the year of the Scottish referendum on independence. Packed with humour, twists and bittersweet surprises, “The Bridge Rising (An Drochaid)”, a feature documentary from Director Robbie Fraser, tells the inside story for the first time. From protesters to police to politicians, from the toll-collector to the Bridge engineer, this film takes you behind closed doors. To celebrate the première screening Glasgow Film Festival and Celtic Connections have collaborated in a world first to co-host a film and music double bill.
The film captures the campaigners’ sense of fun and mischief during the campaign. Drew Millar 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.”
[pullquote]The private toll Bridge became the only way on or off the island. The Bank of America raked in over £30 million in tolls.[/pullquote]The Skye Bridge which links the Isle of Skye, the largest and most northerly large island in the Inner Hebrides, with Mainland Scotland was officially opened on 16 Oct 1995. Those that lived on the island had no other means of getting to the mainland as the ferry was decommissioned once the bridge was open. Despite the Highlands & Islands being designated one of the poorest regions of Europe a toll was levied for crossing the bridge. Metre for metre, the Skye Bridge was the most expensive toll road in the world. The private toll Bridge became the only way on or off the island. The Bank of America raked in over £30 million in tolls.
At the peak of the toll regime, the toll to cross the bridge and return was £11.40 for a car, £57.80 for a lorry, and £82.40 for a bus. To place this in perspective this was fourteen times the round trip price for a car charged by the Forth Road Bridge, a crossing over twice the length.
The Skye Bridge was the UK government’s first and flagship PFI (Private Finance Initiative) project. Based on figures from Miller Construction and from the National Audit Office The Skye Bridge could have been delivered as a public project for approx £20m instead what cost a total £25m of private investment cost taxpayers and road-users over £74m. The campaign against the tolls on the Skye Bridge pitted plucky Scottish islanders against the might of the government and the Bank of America. After nearly a decade of campaigning, defiance, arrests and court cases, the tollbooths were bulldozed. The islanders’ outrage against Westminster’s policy of private funding for public works, and using Skye as a guinea-pig, led to victory…but at a high cost.
A total of 698 PFI projects have been signed in the UK from 1992 to 2012, with a total value of £67 billion. The accumulated debt stands at £210 billion.
The Film Score
The film’s score, by leading Cape Breton composer and guitarist Scott MacMillan features his fiddle-wielding compatriot Colin Grant alongside Scotland’s Dr Angus MacDonald, Arthur Cormack, Mary Ann Kennedy, as well as MacMillan himself.
Tracks by prominent campaigner Robbie The Pict, contemporary Skye band, ‘NIteworks’ (whose drummer Ruairidh Graham protested as a child against the tolls) and political singer and composer Jesse Rae and also feature on the soundtrack.
Louise Scott, producer said: We really wanted the soundtrack to feature people directly involved in the campaign and this was integral to the concept of telling the film’s story. Veteran protestors and world-class musicians Dr Angus MacDonald, who wrote the pipe tune ‘ Casg nan Cisean / Stop the Tolls’, and singer Arthur Cormack, who was locked up police cells for his part in the campaign, sparking a local riot in Portree, were central to this.”
The première screening: Sunday 26 January
The première screening of feature-length documentary ‘The Bridge Rising’ is a major cultural – and political – event that will open and close with performances by world-class musicians who were central to the protest movement on Skye at the time of the tolls.
‘I loved that we were in the middle of a campaign that was entirely driven by people, and music played a fundamental part in driving home the message. The soundtrack to this film is a celebration of traditional music in Scotland as a legitimate means of protest.’
– Mary Ann Kennedy
The event will also have a Q & A after the film, with the film’s director, Robbie Fraser, and producer, Louise Scott, and some of those who took part in the film as key protagonists in the story.
The release of the album of the music inspired by the film, ‘An Drochaid – Skye Bridge Rising’ is scheduled for the same week-end.
The première will be a evening of film, music, discussion and debate in celebration of Scotland’s most celebrated campaigning victory of recent times.
Sunday 26 January @ 19.30
For tickets: http://s.coop/premiere +44 (0)141 332 6535 / email@example.com
or visit GFT or Royal Concert Hall box office.