ONE is the Scottish film writer and director behind much-loved classics such as Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero, the other a leading Scottish producer whose international credits include the recent Oscar-winner Mad Max film starring Tom Hardy. And both are at war with the BBC Scotland.

Bill Forsyth and Iain Smith have branded the BBC “dysfunctional” and “unprofessional” after more than two years of trying to produce a TV series with the corporation – in which a script went through the hands of numerous executives before being rejected without explanation.

The leading filmmakers say the lack of communication and the corporation's “completely haphazard” approach to the project has highlighted just how poorly the BBC is serving regional drama production in Scotland.

The saga began in mid-2013 when BBC Scotland's drama department approached Smith saying there was a need to create Scottish content and Forsyth would be ideal to lead it.

Forsyth said: “I’ve avoided TV work for the last four decades, but the way it was put to us, we were doing this for Scotland – who could resist that? The BBC has to spend a set portion of their budgets in the region, and if we could come up with the goods we would attract a sizeable amount of drama money from the south.”

Discussions with agents and the BBC took place over the next six months, until a deal was arranged for Forsyth and Smith to work on a co-production with the BBC, with the aim of developing a pilot and potentially a TV series of six hours.

In January 2014, talks took place with head of drama at BBC Scotland Chris Aird – who Forsyth said came across as “quite the colonial officer” manning the “drama outpost in Glasgow” - about a series which would capture the spirit of Local Hero.

A month later, Forsyth pitched the idea of a new take on a Highland community in the modern age, with a down-at-heel journalist pitching up trying to write a story on the town as the internet capital of the Highlands.

Forsyth said: “I had fun putting the characters together. Local folk with three jobs rubbing up against globe-straddling billionaires in their Highland retreats in a fictional internet capital of the Highlands. Our hero is an out of work and out of time journalist with no digital skills, trying to write his way out of disastrous circumstances, trying to make sense of a world he can’t comprehend, trying to do it all in written shorthand.”

But Forsyth said Aird seemed alarmed by the idea – and claimed he suggested it should be something more like the popular BBC One show 'Call the Midwife'.

“I could see confusion and alarm spread over his face as my pitch reached its pay-off,” he added. “He said it wasn’t quite what he had in mind.

“So in order to induct me into the ways of TV drama he sent me three scripts from a series called “Call the Midwife”, which I hadn’t ever seen. The scripts had the effect on me of a bucket of cold water.”

The BBC said the scripts were given following a request for an example during discussions about developing a Sunday night TV format.

Over the next few months, Forsyth said Aird was brought round to the idea and became excited by it. But then Aird told him they could only commission an hour for the pilot – despite Forsyth working on a 90-minute script.

Aird suggested one solution was to write one hour of the script – which the BBC says is normal for a TV show - and then supply notes for what happened after that.

But Forsyth said it would be impossible to understand the complexity of the story from this and refused to write anything on this basis. He was eventually given the go-ahead to write a full script, which was delivered to the BBC in early September.

However by this stage Aird was leaving his job for a new role in London.

A new head of drama for Scotland was appointed, but then went on maternity leave. Two further acting heads of drama for BBC Scotland were then appointed, but Forsyth said there was no form of contact with them during the ensuing months, and he and Smith liaised only with an executive producer based in Glasgow, who worked two days a week.

In February 2015, the final draft of the script was delivered and was sent to the head of drama in London, Ben Stephenson. A meeting was set up and Stephenson supported the script – but was leaving within weeks to take up a new role with a production company in LA.

A new head of drama, Polly Hill, was subsequently appointed and Forsyth and Smith were told the script was top of her pile.

Over six months from April 2014, Forsyth said they received a “long series of cryptic reports” on where Hill was at with the submission – including emails stating she was being given a few weeks to get her feet under the table, she “is very excited to read the script”, “any day now” and that she is on holiday.

“It began to take on aspects of the absurd,” Forsyth added.

After an eight week silence, they were informed in August she was on another holiday, but the script was definitely on her list to attend to. Another 11 weeks went by without any communication.

In October 2015 – two and a half years after the BBC first approached Forsyth and Smith – they say their script was rejected, and have never been given an explanation of why.

“It is just awfully sad and dysfunctional,” Forsyth said. “I am totally used to the idea of making independent movies and the ups and downs you have with that.

“But the fact is this project just dragged on with absolutely no-one in control of it, it was completely haphazard, and a spirit deadening process from beginning to end. Of leadership, there was none.

“The joke is in the time it took for me to write our script and for Polly not to read it, Iain Smith went to Namibia and executive produced Mad Max Fury Road, and had it on the screen and winning Oscars.

“Everything felt effortful. It just made me realise what all my poor compatriots in Scotland trying to get things made are suffering daily. Because if this was something the BBC thought it wanted and it goes through this sad saga, then I don’t know how things can possibly work out for people trying to get in the door.”

He added: “The saddest thing is I put my heart into it as I love writing things that Scottish people get more from than anyone else. It would have been fun to nail Scotland again in my own way.

“It would have made a hugely satisfying swansong for me, and I’m sure it would have chimed with many of the local issues and emotions of the moment.”

Smith, whose extensive international career has included producing major films such as The Fifth Element and Children of Men, told the Sunday Herald it had seemed like a perfect opportunity for him to come back to work in Scotland and with Forsyth again.

He said: “Bill and I had been talking for many years about something that could arise from the world of Local Hero – not a remake or reboot, but something that could enjoy the Highlands and the world possibilities that come from that.

“You could say this is bitching about it not getting picked up by the BBC - even though they pursued us to make it, which is a bit odd. But in this life, scripts sometimes don’t get picked up and we battle on.

“The bigger issue is that Bill Forsyth was treated like some kind of film student with his first script, in that there was absolutely no discussion - beyond Ben Stephenson – about the project, about what it could be - the good and the bad and all of that stuff, which we are quite used to dealing with.

“We were appalled at the lack of professional response.”

Smith said he believed Scotland was “extremely badly served” by the BBC and he said he hoped the series will now get picked up elsewhere.

He added: “Personally I think we will get this made at some point - it is lovely, it is a beautiful script.

“Anyone who enjoys Bill’s work will immediately recognise that on the page.”

A spokesman for BBC Scotland said: “The BBC commissions many programme makers across all genres of television to work on development ideas.

“Unfortunately not all developments lead on to a programme being commissioned. After careful consideration, the script in question was regrettably unsuccessful in securing a commission.

“Feedback was given when that decision was made last year.”