Scotland's bands in need of bigger backing group, says MSP

MSPs yesterday urged the Scottish Executive to do more to nurture Scotland’s thriving music scene, currently in the limelight amid the success of bands such as the Glasgow quartet Franz Ferdinand.

Pauline McNeill, the chairwoman of Holyrood’s cross-party group on the contemporary music industry, called for a dedicated enterprise agency similar to that in Wales, as she launched the parliament’s first debate covering pop, rock and indie music.

The hour-long session took place in the week that ten Scottish acts play the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas - at which Franz Ferdinand won critical acclaim last year before going on to secure the Mercury Music Prize for their eponymous album.

Ms McNeill’s motion, entitled Franz Ferdinand Rocks and backed by 35 MSPs, congratulated the band on winning two Brit Awards and called for a dedicated music enterprise strategy to ensure the Scottish industry continued to flourish.

Ms McNeill told MSPs: "Scotland is taking its place in the world as a home for contemporary music. We are contributing to the renaissance of live music - Biffy Clyro, Idlewild, Belle and Sebastian, Aberfeldy - the list is endless.

"But unless we take a conscious decision to better support it as an industry it will fade as quickly as it arrived."

She acknowledged the support of bodies such as the Scottish Arts Council, which helps homegrown acts attend SXSW, and Scottish Enterprise, which helped bring the 2003 MTV Europe awards to Edinburgh, and the Music Works industry event to Glasgow last year.

However, the Glasgow Kelvin MSP urged them to build on their work with a "more co-ordinated approach" to all types of business operating in the music industry.

Despite potential concerns about public funding for such a commercial industry she said Scandinavian nations were "reaping the benefit" of state music policies and support for touring and recording.

Ms McNeill praised the Welsh Music Foundation, a not-for-profit agency with a dedicated board of industry figures. She added: "Peter Hain [the Welsh Secretary] was so shocked at learning that all the economic activity that a rock concert in Wales generated did not benefit Wales directly, [he] set about changing that immediately.

"The Irish have a similar music board, and I believe that in Scotland we must have a similar plan - a plan which recognises there are thousands of small businesses which could be larger with the right support."

Scottish Enterprise’s 25 million creative industries strategy aims to help music production as well as various other sectors, including publishing, advertising and architecture.

A 2003 study commissioned by Scottish Enterprise estimated that Scotland’s music industry generated about 106 million annually in sales of music and services, supported by 18.8 million in central and local government funding.

The study by the universities of Glasgow and Stirling said that a lack of service providers, such as managers, agents and publicists, had hampered the development of Scottish musicians.

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