Leader comment: Scottish film boom is product placement on grand scale

Increased interest from film-makers in Edinburgh and the Highlands could help increase tourist numbers.
Outlaw King tells a tale of Robert the Bruce during the Wars of IndependenceOutlaw King tells a tale of Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Independence
Outlaw King tells a tale of Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Independence

Scotland, it would appear, is experiencing something of a boom in film and television.

One might have expected movies like Outlaw King – about Robert the Bruce – and Mary Queen of Scots to be shot here, but they didn’t actually need to be. After all, that most Scottish of films, Braveheart, was largely filmed on location in Ireland.

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However, following the success of movies shot in the Highlands like science fiction tale Prometheus and the Skyfall instalment of the James Bond series, the council has had more than 200 enquiries about using the region as a location.

The Highlands already knows just how powerful films can be – anyone taking a trip to the Glenfinnan viaduct will discover crowds of Harry Potter fans eager for a selfie with the famous bridge in the background – all because the boy wizard crossed it in a steam train on his way to Hogwarts. And Edinburgh has seen the value of TV and film productions more than double in a year to some £16 million, boosted by the presence of more than 400 crew who worked on Avengers: Infinity War.

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The film-makers expressed surprised that the Capital – “one of the more cinematic cities I’ve seen”, according to co-director Joe Russo – had not been “over-shot” because of its “stunning” architecture and “unique” setting. This suggests there is scope to attract more movie-makers.

When the new Avengers film opens in April, a whole new audience all over the world will get to see A-list Hollywood stars like Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr and Chris Hemsworth in a thrilling tale set on the historic streets of Edinburgh. And that just might spur many to come to see the ‘Athens of the North’ for themselves, boosting the city’s already considerable numbers of tourists, with its festivals now attracting a total of about four million people.

Tourism is a hugely important source of income for many people in Scotland, with visitors spending nearly £10 billion in 2016.

Films set in Scotland can act not only as a source of entertainment but as a powerful advert for its natural – and artificial – beauty. This is product placement on a grand scale, but in a good way.

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So the authorities need to bear this in mind when dealing with the film and television industry and try to make sure any future films about William Wallace or other Scottish heroes don’t end up being shot in Ireland.