‘Strip quangos of control of Scots film industry’

More Scots hits such as Starred Up could be made with better support from Creative Scotland, say producers. Picture: Contributed
More Scots hits such as Starred Up could be made with better support from Creative Scotland, say producers. Picture: Contributed
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SCOTLAND’S leading film producers want Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise to be stripped of responsibility for the crisis-hit industry.

A parliamentary probe has been told urgent action is needed from the Scottish Government to rescue the cash-strapped sector over a lack of funding and facilities.

Film industry leaders have told the Holyrood inquiry Scotland needs a dedicated screen agency, less than five years after Creative Scotland was formed in a merger of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen.

The pleas come 12 months after a wide-ranging review of the film sector warned the country was lagging behind the likes of Wales and Northern Ireland, where Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, respectively, are made.

The Independent Producers Scotland group (IPS) – formed in 2013 to try to secure a better deal for the nation’s filmmakers – says it has wasted 18 months working with Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise.

It represents more than 40 production companies and figures behind such box office hits as Under the Skin, Sunshine on Leith, Filth and Starred Up.

Creative Scotland committed £1 million to a proposed studio complex on the Clyde waterfront in Glasgow in 2012, but the project was delayed indefinitely after Scottish Enterprise began examining other options for sites around the country.

Despite hiring a new director of film, Natalie Usher, last year, and publishing a long-term strategy, Creative Scotland has not provided additional funding for major productions.

Evidence submitted to Holyrood’s economy and tourism committee said despite Scottish filmmakers punching above their weight, “it is a real tragedy that the industry is crippled by the impact of years of lack of support, engagement and understanding”.

The IPS submission to MSPs stated: “The screen sector has suffered from a severe lack of business development, advice and support since Scottish Screen was incorporated into Creative Scotland. This, combined with the division of film culture and business responsibilities across two government agencies, has had a hugely damaging effect and has ultimately brought a once-vibrant industry to its knees.

“Despite many opportunities, the two government agencies have failed to collaborate. They have different agendas and policies and continually pass the buck between themselves rather than addressing the issue of properly developing or promoting a sustainable film industry in Scotland. The current arrangements are not fit for purpose.

“A dynamic and vibrant film industry acts as a key cultural ambassador for a country. This is why the governments in most forward-thinking smaller countries, such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Canada – as well as larger countries such as France – do not leave film policy to the arts and business development bureaucrats.”

In its evidence, the Scottish Government, which previously announced £2 million for a loan fund for a film studio, said Creative Scotland has “lead responsibility” for the screen industries.

Its own submission stated: “The Scottish Government, in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and Creative Scotland, is committed to taking whatever action is possible to provide support to Scotland’s screen sector.

“This includes a rigorous and detailed approach to exploring any options that help to improve and enhance Scotland’s offer in terms of studio facilities.

“The process involves assessing what private-sector opportunities are available on a case-by- case basis and what if any public support might be required.”

The inquiry continues.