In 2021, I got a job as the first artistic director of a new arts centre in Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland by the bridge to the Isle of Skye.

I lived right next to where the old ferry used to come in above Saucy Mary’s pub in Kyleakin on the Island.

Every day I would walk over the bridge, enjoy the beautiful views and head over to work. 

Saucy Mary was a Viking princess who married the Mckinnon Chief and lived in a little castle in Kyleakin overlooking the stretch of water between the mainland and Skye.

It is said that she got her name from when she used to flash her breasts at passing sailors to lure them down Loch Alsh.

She would then impose a toll on anyone coming through and if they did not pay she had a ginormous chain which ran under the water and she would raise it up and stop their ships. 

In one of the many battles, the chain was broken and people could pass freely forever more. 

Fast forward a few hundred years to 1995 when the Skye Bridge was opened.

The last ferry sailed between Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh with a party atmosphere on board. The bridge was ready. Years of hard work had paid off and the Islanders finally had a reliable connection with the mainland. 

But then, the tolls were opened. Originally the project had cost £15m - it is estimated to have eventually been £10m over.

The investors needed their money back. They kept hiking up the toll higher and higher.

In 2004, a return trip over the bridge cost £11.40. It was the highest toll in Europe. 

The people of Skye had enough! Inspired by the breaking of Saucy Mary’s chain, they protested, wrote letters to the Scottish Parliament and refused to pay the tolls.

Old ladies in Morris Minors would lift up the barriers and drive through, and people would pay in 2p coins and then drop them all over the floor so it would cause a huge delay.

They were led by Robbie the Pict, who set up SKAT (Skye and Kyle Against Tolls) and he supported the campaigners with their legal battles.

Huge protests happened over the bridge with drums and pipers leading cars over in defiance of the extortionate fees.

Eventually, they won! The people of Skye defeated the big corporate giants. The tolls were removed on December 21, 2004. 

Back down here, on the Isle of Wight, where is our uproar? Where’s our disobedience?

The people of Skye saw an injustice and they fought for it. Here, there is apathy.

If we want something to change, what are we going to do about it?

We are all happy to tap, tap, tap on social media and moan about it in community groups on Facebook.

We can all be keyboard warriors or have a grumble about it in the pub but what are we actually going to do?

Why do we just accept the overpriced, unreliable and under performing ferry services?

Why do we just take the chaos with the floating bridge, try to ignore the burnt-out empty hotels, the threats to close schools, the permanent ‘temporary’ road closures, or Bob’s Island Deal we were promised that never appeared.

Do we just accept these things as part of Island life and wait for someone else to do something about it or do we rise up and say enough is enough?

What is the point where we get up and do something?

What is the price we are not willing to pay? When is the moment us Islanders make a difference?