Scotland’s film and TV sector ‘needs urgent aid’

URGENT government action is needed to revive Scotland’s struggling screen industry, including the long-awaited backing of a permanent film studio, a damning parliamentary probe has found.

Brad Pitt shot World War Z in Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry

Ministers have been urged to set up a new film industry taskforce, create new incentives to attract big-money film and television productions, provide clearer directions to public sector quangos and do much more to encourage the development of home-grown drama programmes.

The inquiry, by Holyrood’s economy committee, found Scotland was “lagging behind” UK and international competitors when it came to film funding, and that the conflicting remits of Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise were “acting as a barrier” to giving the film industry proper support.

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It also criticised the lack of a long-term strategy and poor leadership from the two quangos for the TV industry in Scotland, which is being held back by a lack of major production companies and a controversial “lift and shift” policy to move shows north of the Border temporarily to meet official quotas.

Scarlett Johansson filming in Auchmithie near Dundee for Sci-Fi/horror flick Under the Skin. Picture: Hemedia

The committee report into the creative industries, which heard evidence from a host of key industry figures earlier this year, said there was clearly a “pressing industry requirement” for a Scottish film and TV studio.

Creative Scotland pledged £1 million for a film studio venture in Glasgow two-and-a-half years ago, but the project was delayed after Scottish Enterprise began exploring other sites.

The favoured contender is believed to Cumbernauld, where a temporary studio facility has been created in a former warehouse complex for American drama series Outlander.

Murdo Fraser, the chair of the economy committee. said: “Scotland has great potential to grow its film, TV and video games sectors, to attract and retain talented people at the heart of these industries, and to build the skills and expertise of people.

“This report makes clear that to achieve that growth the support they receive from the government and its agencies must be informed by the industries themselves. Agencies working collaboratively and in collaboration with the industries are the key to success. It is evident this is not happening. It must be addressed urgently.”

Gillian Berrie, one of Scotland’s leading film producers, said urgent action was needed to improve the amount available for productions, currently pegged at just £3.5 million.

She added: “A city-centre based studio is a priority, but it shouldn’t eclipse the urgent requirement to address the industry’s financial needs. Lack of strategic intervention in film and TV’s infrastructural investment means that jobs are not being created and talent continues to leave. While there is no incentive fund for incoming productions, tens of millions of pounds of foreign finance is simply not being competed for.

“I look forward to having further conversations with the Scottish Government and its agencies about how to address the current problems.”

A government spokeswoman pointed out that total support from public sector bodies for the screen sector in Scotland has risen from £16.2m to £21.6m in the space of six years.

She added: “We have consistently championed Scotland as a location for international film and TV productions, with notable recent successes including Outlander, World War Z, Under the Skin and The Railway Man.

“We understand that Scotland would benefit from improved resources for film and high end TV production. The Scottish Government, Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise are continuing to work together positively and with the sector to realise our shared ambitions.”

A spokesman for Creative Scotland said: “We will consider the recommendations carefully as a matter of priority and work closely with Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government and other partners to develop a clear shared plan for their delivery.”