Comment: Action needed on Scots TV & film crisis

Of the 174 events in the Glasgow Film Festival programme, just two new Scottish films were among them. Picture: SWNS
Of the 174 events in the Glasgow Film Festival programme, just two new Scottish films were among them. Picture: SWNS
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CALLS for action on crisis in TV and film production in Scotland must be addressed, writes Brian Ferguson

IT WILL probably not be the last case of unfortunate timing for the Scottish arts scene in 2015, but as the great and the good of the film and TV industry were setting out its current parlous state to the Scottish Parliament, the Glasgow Film Festival was launching its tenth anniversary programme on the same day. While the unveiling of the schedulee was not entirely overshadowed by the morning’s events at Holyrood, it was probably as well that its launch was held in the evening.

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As it was, there was time to reflect that, of the mind-boggling 174 events in the festival programme, just two new Scottish films were among them, one of them a half-hour documentary about the writer William McIlvanney.

At the heart of the ongoing debate over the film and TV industry are growing calls for action to curb a looming crisis over the lack of productions being made in Scotland compared to other parts of the UK, Ireland and around Europe.

The arguments have been well-rehearsed over the last 18 months by a handful of voices in the industry, but it was still striking to hear in person from the likes of Iain Smith, chair of the British Film Commission, Ken Hay, the former chief executive of Scottish Screen and Drew McFarlane, national organiser for acting union Equity.

It is hard to imagine how a more damning collective verdict on Scotland’s flagship creative industries could have been delivered: A lack of industry leadership, a dire shortage of funding, a lack of relevant experience among those holding the purse strings in quangos and a failure to deliver the kind of studio facilities that are commonplace across Europe were hammered home time and again over the course of three hours.

The committee hearing came in the wake of the publication of dozens of deeply-depressing written submissions to the committee, virtually none of which will make happy reading for the Scottish culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop.

It is all a far cry from a keynote speech she gave to the Salford Media Festival just over a year ago when she proudly declared: “At present in Scotland, there is considerable activity taking place within our film and television sectors.”

That is most certainly not the view of those at the sharp end of the screen sector. And without a pledge of extra finance and action to improve the dire infrastructure situation, the crisis calls are only going to get louder.

One thing is crystal clear. There is little or no faith in either Scottish Enterprise or Creative Scotland resolving the current mess.

Final responsibility for the entire state of affairs lies at the door of Ms Hyslop, who will have to act swiftly to avoid her entire year being dominated by the issue.