A FORMER factory is believed to be the front-runner in the race to become Scotland’s national film studio.
The former OKI printer plant in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, is understood to be in the frame for the flagship project, after a host of other sites around Scotland were ruled out.
The 200,000 square feet building, which has been unoccupied for almost a year, sits just a few hundreds metres from the temporary studio where the US television show Outlander is being made.
The 13.8 acre site at the Wardpark Industrial Estate is also close to both Cumbernauld Airport and the M8.
A new contender for the long-delayed national film studio emerged earlier this week at the Holyrood inquiry into claims that Scotland’s film and TV industries are in the grip of a deepening crisis.
Campaigners say a shortage of studio facilities have left the country lagging behind the likes of Wales and Northern Ireland. Doctor Who and Game of Thrones are made respectively in Cardiff and Belfast.
Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop disclosed a new private-sector bid to create a studio was being “actively” explored by Scottish Enterprise.
Scottish Enterprise later issued a statement saying that the agency was “working towards completing due diligence and agreeing heads of terms with the developer within the next eight weeks”.
However, the announcement has angered backers of a separate plan to create new studio facilities near the Film City Glasgow production hub on the Clyde Waterfront.
Japanese firm OKI shed half of its workforce in April 2013, making 175 staff redundant, and relocating the following spring to another part of Cumbernauld.
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One insider said: “Although the Cumbernauld studio where Outlander is being made is likely to be unavailable for other productions for several years, it would make a lot of sense to have another studio nearby.
“The location of the temporary studio has worked well for the filming of Outlander as it is relatively close to Glasgow city centre and the M8. This building has only recently come on to the market.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it could not comment on the location of the proposed new private-sector development for reasons of “commercial confidentiality”.
Meanwhile, one of Scotland’s leading film producers has launched a stinging attack on the handling of Film City Glasgow’s expansion plans, which were only officially ruled out for public support by the Scottish Government this week.
Ms Hyslop told MSPs that recent European Commission rulings had made it “quite clear” that the public sector could not take forward its own proposals for a film studio, as it would breach state aid rules.
The recommended option, put out to tender last year, was estimated to cost around £15 million and would have led to the creation of two sound stages, workshops and production offices.
Gillian Berrie, founder of Film City Glasgow, said: “We were verbally informed that our proposal would not be taken forward – 30 minutes before Fiona Hyslop appeared before the inquiry. That four years of hard work, research, advocacy and consultation by Film City can been be distilled into a short ‘thanks but no thanks’ meeting, minutes before a major government inquiry, is very troubling.”
Independent screen consultant Belle Doyle said: “The only people who are going to sell this site are the people who are actually working in the industry and are able to bring productions into the country. They will have to be brought on board. This does all seem too good to be true at the moment and the level of secrecy seems over the top.”
The government spokeswoman said: “As Fiona Hyslop made clear to parliament this week, we are unable to pursue a new-build studio at Pacific Quay or anywhere else that seeks 100 per cent public sector support because of EU state aid rules.“We are pleased that a new proposal has been received by Scottish Enterprise from a private sector developer to provide studio infrastructure.
“We are considering that bid, but continue to be open to any new proposals from the private sector in the short term. We would welcome any new proposal which meets the criteria we have set out and does not expect 100 per cent public sector funding,
“We appreciate that the supporters of other bids will be disappointed to learn that we are not able to support their proposals. However, we remain committed to developing suitable studio facilities in Scotland that fall within state aid rules.”