And the Oscar for the ugliest location goes to… Scotland

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FROM the Hogwarts Express steaming across Glenfinnan Viaduct to the towering Wicker Man being consumed by flames on the Galloway coast, Scotland has produced some of the most iconic images in film history.

But now the national film agency has claimed that our scenery cannot compete with the unspoilt beauty offered by countries such as New Zealand and Canada. Instead, Scottish Screen is promoting a series of jaw-droppingly ugly locations in a bid to make Scotland the grim and gritty film capital of the world.

Greenock Prison, the "rundown" Girvan harbour, the "supremely ugly" Cumbernauld shopping centre, Rosyth Docks and East Kilbride town centre are all being offered to film-makers – while the interior of Airdrie United's Excelsior Stadium is touted as the ideal place to film a prison drama.

One Glasgow street was recently used as a desolate, plague-ridden wasteland for a forthcoming science-fiction epic.

Belle Doyle, Scottish Screen's location manager, insisted that Scotland could not afford to be sniffy about how it presented itself to movie moguls.

"If we keep promoting Scotland as a country with lovely views and landscapes we are not going to rank too highly because there are many other countries which are completely stunning," she said.

"Places like New Zealand and Canada are unspoilt while in Scotland there are pylons, lights and city lights. Unfortunately this means that Scotland does not have the pristine environment that other countries can offer.

"Undoubtedly some parts of Scotland are really beautiful so, for film-makers, it is all about weighing up the pluses and the minuses.

"If you wanted to do something huge with a wide prehistoric landscape you probably wouldn't be able to make it in Scotland. It would be easier to make it in New Zealand."

Doyle said Scotland had already become well-known as an ideal base for "edgy" dramas.

"Some locations are so spectacularly ugly they become cinematic," she said. "Trainspotting introduced people to a different side of Edinburgh and there are still tours that go round the locations that were used in the film.

"Red Road – the award-winning 2006 film set in Glasgow tower blocks – is a perfect example of using something that is really rundown, but becomes iconic on the big screen."

The location manager said Glasgow had been used recently for Doomsday, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller starring Bob Hoskins and Malcolm MacDowell which is due to be released in the spring.

"The film is set 20 years in the future where Scotland has been closed down and everyone has died because of an outbreak of plague. They wanted the street to look it hadn't been inhabited in decades and chose a location in Haghill.

"All it took was to bring in a few trees and to turn a couple of cars upside down."

Doyle said inquiries over less aesthetically pleasing locations were done tactfully.

"Local councils tend to be slightly uncomfortable if you tell them you are looking for somewhere which is a bit scruffy and grotty. Nobody wants to think that where they live is really grotty, but being in a film brings real economic benefits."

The locations being offered by Scottish Screen include Airdrie FC's stadium, which comes under the category "prisons and jails" and includes two cells and a booking desk. Clydebank Co-op, Dunfermline's Lynebank Hospital, Tongland Power Station near Kirkcudbright, East Kilbride town centre, Kirkintilloch and Aberdeen's concrete carbuncle-like St Nicholas shopping centre built in the Eighties are also listed.

Girvan in South Ayrshire is described as a "rather isolated and rather rundown fishing port".

Ted Brocklebank, the Conservative culture spokesman and former award-winning documentary maker, expressed concern about the strategy.

He said: "In Scotland we have some of the world's most wonderful scenery that is every bit as magnificent as anything in New Zealand and Canada.

"I could take people at Scottish Screen to a number of locations in Aberdeenshire as well as Wester Ross, the Cuillins, Torridon and Orkney that are completely wild and unspoilt without a pylon or telephone line in sight.

"It is true that in Scotland we have a number of rundown, inner-city urban locations which lend themselves to gritty realism. Film-makers may well be able to make use of it, but I don't think we should be terribly happy about it."

Alec Clark, the chairman of Girvan Community Council, felt the unflattering portrayal of his hometown was unjustified, and said: "This sounds like a typically misguided view written by people who spend most of their time inside a cosy suburban bubble. They have no clue about the real-life realities of life in rural Scotland.

"It is true, as it is in all Scottish coastal towns, that tourists are not coming in the same numbers as they were in years gone by, but Girvan is still full of vibrancy and life."

But John Wilson, whose Haghill home overlooked the filming of Doomsday, was not remotely offended that his neighbourhood doubled for a battle-scarred, plague-ravaged frontier.

He said: "I couldn't believe it when I got the letter telling me about the filming. Science fiction and zombie films are my thing and to have one made at the end of my street was amazing."