New film and TV studio space must be created, MSPs claim
Holyrood’s culture committee has called for the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland take immediate action to address the “urgent need” for new infrastructure.
It has told the arts quango’s new screen chief, whose appointment was announced last week, to make the deliver of a study her top priority.
The only major studio facility in Scotland is a converted warehouse complex in Cumbernauld where the Sony-Starz time-time fantasy series Outlander is filmed – and the facility is in permanent use.
Planning permission for a purpopse built film and TV studio on a 100 acre greenbelt site at Straiton on the outskirts of Edinburgh has been granted by the government by but work has not yet commenced.
Joan McAlpine, the committee’s chair, said a visit by the committee to Outlander’s Wardpark Studios facility was a “significant moment” for the six-month inquiry.
She said: “The vast complex houses life-sized sets, props of every conceivable kind and tens of thousands of costumes – all made in Scotland.
“Graduates from Scotland’s art schools work beside skilled tradespeople such as machinists, joiners and electricians.
“We saw with our own eyes how the screen industry contributes to sustainable economic growth.
“The lack of a purpose built studio in Scotland has been the subject of debate for at least 50 years. We need delivery, not debate. The committee expect to see significant progress on this issue before the end of 2018.”
The demands have been made in a damning report on the state of the industry which warns that Creative Scotland’s new executive director of screen, Isabel Davis, faces being saddled with “cumbersome and overly bureaucratic governance arrangements.”
The culture committee claims that the current “fragmented approach” to the screen industry from the government, Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise is duplicated in the model for the new screen agency.
It has also called for broadcasting regular Ofcom to ensure there is a much “tougher definition” of what qualifies as a Scottish production in future and raised concerns that the budget for BBC Scotland’s new channel is too low.
Ms McAlpine added: “These are exciting times for screen in Scotland. The launch of the new BBC channel and Glasgow’s impressive bid for the Channel 4 national headquarters, which this Committee supports, reflects real confidence in Scotland’s screen sector.
“New Scottish Government funding for production, along with UK tax incentives, come as global demand for content soars. It’s a perfect storm of opportunity, and the committee wants Scotland to grasp it.
“But we know that despite some successes, such as Outlander, Scotland has fallen behind in screen relative to other parts of the UK.”
A spokesman for Creative Scotland said: “We agree that permanent, sustainable studio facilities are a priority for Scotland’s screen sector.
“We’ve been working on a business case for such a facility and we are at an advanced stage with this work.
“Subject to approval from the Scottish Government, we hope to be able to say more very soon.
“In the meantime, we are pleased that the Pentlands proposal for a purpose built facility was given the green light for planning permission by the Scottish Government and we continue to actively promote successful studio spaces across Scotland.