VisitScotland joins calls for new Edinburgh film studio

Suzanne Tighe from architect Keppie shows the film studio proposals to visitors at a public meeting. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Suzanne Tighe from architect Keppie shows the film studio proposals to visitors at a public meeting. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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The Scottish Government is coming under mounting pressure to approve proposals for a film studio on the outskirts of Edinburgh after it emerged its national tourism agency, the city council and the capital’s film agency are all backing the plans.

VisitScotland officials have thrown their weight behind the Pentland Studios project despite opposition from Midlothian Council, amid fears it will blight the local landscape.

The Pentland Studios project would feature six sound stages up to 70 ft tall for indoor filming and two outdoor areas known as “backlots” suitable for blockbuster productions.

It is also being championed by the Film Edinburgh commission – which claims 17 “high-value productions” were lost to the area last year due to the lack of studio facilities – as well as the city council’s economic development chief, Frank Ross.

Their support has emerged days after Tommy Gormley, an assistant director on the new Star Wars film, said the failure to build such a facility was having a “catastrophic” effect on the industry in Scotland.

However, it puts the three organisations at odds with the council, which also believes the proposals would cause unacceptable disruption to local residents.

The Scottish Government will have to rule on the studio scheme after the consortium behind the project appealed.

VisitScotland claims the £150 million project could become Scotland’s answer to the Harry Potter tour at the Warner Bros studio, north-west London.

The tourism body has also predicted the studio will bolster the chances of attracting more high-profile productions such as TV series Outlander, which it pointed out had to be based in a makeshift studio in a converted factory due to the lack of any permanent facilities in the country.

VisitScotland regional director Manuela Calchini said: “A studio tour would be a unique visitor attraction which would complement the activities already undertaken by ‘set-jetters,’ who come to Scotland to see locations used in their favourite film or TV programme.

“I feel very strongly that the proposed film studio will be a game-changer for Midlothian, Edinburgh and Scotland. We will include this proposal in a new national tourism development framework, which we’re currently working on.”

Mr Ross said the Pentland Studios development had the potential to transform Scotland into an “international hub” for film production when combined with the area’s urban and natural landscapes. He added: “The project has the potential to enhance the city tourist offering, boost the creative sector and catalyse greatly increased investment in film production.”

Rosie Ellison, manager of Film Edinburgh – which reported a record £6.6 million worth of benefit from TV and film productions last year – said the industry was being held back by the lack of a permanent studio facility.

She has told the government: “The bulk of high-impact filming needs a film studio in which to work. The lack of build space is regularly cited as the reason that these productions choose not to film or base in the city region.”