SCOTLAND’S troubled film and TV industry has been dealt a new blow after a public sector quango missed its own deadline to finalise a long-awaited deal to secure a permanent film studio.
The private-sector bid was revealed in early February by Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop during a Holyrood inquiry which was told urgent action was needed to rescue the cash-strapped industry.
At the time Scottish Enterprise said it was close to “completing due diligence and agreeing heads of terms” with the developer and promised an update within eight weeks.
However, its deadline to finalise a deal with the unnamed firm has come and gone without any announcement being made, despite Ms Hyslop jetting out to Los Angeles to meet film studio executives.
It is almost two years since she set up a Film Studio Delivery Group – involving the government, Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise – to pursue plans for the nation’s first permanent facilities. However, the lack of progress has infuriated many leading TV and film industry figures who have been campaigning for the new facility to be built in Glasgow.
Creative Scotland previously earmarked £1 million for a project drawn up by the operators of Film City Glasgow, the biggest hub for the industry, for a site at Pacific Quay, near the headquarters of both BBC Scotland and STV.
Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government insisted that other sites across the country were examined amid fears the site in Glasgow was not big enough.
The project was put out to tender in a bid to drum up support for the private sector. All bids were rejected as unsuitable, with concerns that they would breach strict EU state aid rules limiting levels of public sector backing for studios.
Scottish Enterprises’s surprise announcement on 4 February said the new proposal appeared to “exceed the specification” of the development brief. The mystery venture is believed to be earmarked for the Cumbernauld area, where the American TV show Outlander is being made in a converted warehouse.
Tiernan Kelly, director of Film City Glasgow, said: “That the industry responded in large numbers to the recent parliamentary inquiry, demonstrated a unanimity that Scotland’s screen story was currently one of missed opportunity.
“Regardless of how matters proceed elsewhere in Scotland, Glasgow remains the sustainable rather than speculative option, and entirely deliverable by building on the successful foundation of Film City Glasgow. ”
Arabella Page Croft, producer of the film Sunshine on Leith, said: “With each week of indecision we’re jeopardising the future prospects of our workforce who are not participating in the UK’s fastest growing sector. Glasgow is losing out on millions of pounds of business and job creation.”
A spokeswoman for the Film Studio Delivery Group said: “We’re pleased that a proposal has been received by Scottish Enterprise on behalf of the group from a private sector developer to provide studio infrastructure.
“That bid is currently under consideration but the need for commercial confidentiality means we’re currently unable to provide any more details. We remain committed to developing suitable studio facilities in Scotland that fall within state aid rules.”