CREATIVE Scotland has admitted millions of pounds of extra funding need to be found to prevent the country’s film and television industry lagging further behind its rivals.
Officials told a Holyrood inquiry into the ailing screen sector that Scotland is failing to compete with the likes of Northern Ireland and Wales because it does not have the financial muscle to attract large-scale international productions.
A dedicated fund would see money ringfenced for productions almost double and help Scotland compete for high-profile films and television shows. Producers and film-makers would offer financial incentives to take advantage of some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes, as well as historic city locations like George Square in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
However, Creative Scotland has admitted the venture will need to be bankrolled by the Scottish Government if it is to get up and running, due to the growing demands on its £90 million budget.
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Natalie Usher, Creative Scotland’s recently appointed director of film, said an initial incentive fund of £3m a year could make a huge difference to the sector, with a projected economic return of ten to one.
The Scottish Government has been urged to set up an independent taskforce and ringfence £1m a year to kickstart a revival in the industry. The inquiry has heard claims that film and TV production has slumped due to the lack of studio facilities like those where Doctor Who and Game of Thrones are filmed in Cardiff and Belfast respectively.
Creative Scotland’s chief executive Janet Archer told the latest inquiry hearing that the quango had not been set up correctly five years ago, when it was formed out of a merger between the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen.
But she insisted that bringing back a separate agency would not be a good use of public money just a few months after Creative Scotland had published its own long-term strategy for the screen sector. She accepted that “the buck stops” at her door, but said extra government funding would be needed to turn plans to offer financial incentives into reality.
Ms Archer said: “Clearly, where the money comes from is the critical reality. There is no scope within our existing budget. But we think that for a relatively modest amount of extra investment, we could really step into a different game. For what ought to be an achievable amount of a little bit more, you could start to become competitive.”
Ms Usher told The Scotsman: “The whole of the UK now has a film and high-end TV tax credit system. Scotland also has fantastically skilled crews and amazing locations.
“But when we go to other countries to sell Scotland to studios and production companies we cannot also go on to say we have a fund to attract large-scale productions
“We have a production fund, but it’s only £4m, and to bid for that you have to have a Scottish base and there are certain criteria you have to meet because it is lottery money. Northern Ireland sets aside £3.2m a year for large-scale productions.
“What Northern Ireland’s figures say is that for everyone £1 they give to these productions they get at least £10 back.”