THE Scottish Government has agreed to set up a powerful new taskforce dedicated to reviving the nation’s film industry - but has still not committed to a long-awaited studio.
Leading directors and producers who have been campaigning for a better financial deal for the country’s troubled screen sector are expected to be asked to join the new expert group.
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop and deputy first minister John Swinney admitted there was a need for the government to “collectively and consistently better support” the film industry.
However there was no new money announced in the government’s official response to a damning report which found Scotland was lagging rival countries around Europe when it comes to facilities and funding.
The Independent Producers Scotland group has been campaigning for two years for an increase in the £4 million funding pot available for productions from Creative Scotland.
And the government is still locked in negotiations over the creation of a permanent film studio development, more than two years after the creation of its “delivery group” by Ms Hyslop.
This inquiry provided a valuable opportunity to look in depth at our creative industries – a sector worth more than £5 billion to Scotland, which employs more people than the oil and gas industry. We are determined to maximise the economic, social and cultural benefits they can deliverFiona Hyslop
Due diligence is said to have been completed over a private sector proposal which was announced by Ms Hyslop in March when she appeared at Holyrood to give evidence as part of an inquiry into the screen sector and the computer gaming industry.
The parliament’s economy committee had urged the government to reach a decision on the new studio venture - which is understood to be earmarked for Cumbernauld in Lanarkshire - “as soon as possible” when its findings were published in March.
However an eight-week deadline for an update on the project, set by quango Scottish Enterprise, came and went at the beginning of April.
Ms Hyslop has met film industry leaders during visits to Hollywood and the Cannes Film Festival in recent weeks, but has not made an announcement about the project since her Holyrood appearance.
The government’s response to the inquiry states that negotiations for the proposed studio - thought to be close to the converted warehouse where TV Outlander is being filmed in Cumbernauld - are “taking time given the complexities and technicalities involved.”
It adds: “The Scottish Government and its agencies remain committed to developing suitable studio facilities in Scotland that fall within state aid rules.”
The creation of a “film industry leadership group” was recommended following the parliamentary probe which found the country was being held back by the lack of a permanent studio, incentives to attract big-money films and television shows, and a lack of major production companies north of the border.
The conflicting remits of Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise were also said to be “acting as a barrier” to providing proper industry support.
The government’s response - jointly penned by Ms Hyslop and Mr Swinney - said it “expects, and will make clear, that public agencies must and will make more effort to coordinate and provide complementary support services focused not on their internal processes, but on the needs of the sectors they serve.”
Ms Hyslop said: “This inquiry provided a valuable opportunity to look in depth at our creative industries – a sector worth more than £5 billion to Scotland, which employs more people than the oil and gas industry. We are determined to maximise the economic, social and cultural benefits they can deliver.
“The measures we are announcing will help us to better understand and respond to the needs of the creative industries in Scotland and ensure the government and its agencies are working more effectively and collaboratively for their benefit.”
A spokeswoman for the IPS group said: “We’re delighted to hear that an expert leadership panel will be formed.
“Realigning the government agencies should be a priority, along with strategic discussions on how to implement European funding, increasing production and development support as well as creating an incentive fund for inward investment opportunities.
“The total amount of money currently avail in Scotland for film development and production is lottery funding of £4 million per annum. If we are to reap the phenomenal economic and cultural effects of a thriving sector, we need to support it properly.”
Murdo Fraser, convenor of the economy committee, said: “Through the course of our inquiry, the committee found that the government and its agencies needed to work together to co-ordinate the support provided, by listening and speaking directly to those working in the creative industries.
“This dialogue appeared to have broken down so it’s heartening to see that, as a result of the inquiry, the government is taking action to address this.”
A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: “We welcome the recommendations set out in this response and will continue to work with our partner agencies and the screen and creative industry sectors going forward.”
Sunshine on Leith producer Arabella Page Croft, founder of Black Camel Pictures, said: “One of our key aims in Cannes this year was to raise the international profile of our company and to try and attract high end co-productions to Scotland so that we can stabilise our business.
“However Scottish producers continue to compete against a sea of global incentives and rich inward investment funds from other countries.
“To create a booming film sector in Scotland we need to make many more films - and that takes better resourced producers and a studio. It’s not rocket science.”