SCOTLAND’s culture secretary has pledged that the nation’s troubled screen industry will win significant new funding to help attract major film and TV productions to the country.
Fiona Hyslop revealed the government was working with arts agency Creative Scotland to set up a new inward investment fund, which will be worth several million pounds, it is understood.
Ms Hyslop said the funding would “at least” match the incentives available in other countries, although it was not announced exactly how much would be made available or when bids would be invited.
But the cabinet secretary was unable to provide any update on long-delayed plans for a national film studio, more than two years after she instigated a “delivery group” involving the government, Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise.”
She was speaking in the wake of damning criticism over a lack of support for the industry in Scotland, which is said to have slipped behind major rivals due to a lack of funding and facilities.
The promise of extra funding has been made weeks after Ms Hyslop agreed to set up an industry taskforce to help improve relations between industry figures and public sector bodies.
Leading directors and producers who have been campaigning for a better financial deal for the country’s troubled screen sector are expected to be asked to join the new expert group.
It is thought the new incentive fund, one of their key demands in the last couple of years, would effectively double the amount of money available for films and TV shows from the current level of £4 million.
Producers would be offered financial incentives to take advantage of some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes, many of which have been used for the American fantasy series Outlander, which has just started filming a second season.
Ms Hyslop said: “We are committed to this sector and are genuinely working very hard to support growth and promote Scotland as a premier location to produce great films and attract significant inward investment.
“That’s why we’re working with our partners to deliver additional funding for production, including increased incentives for film and TV which at least match the incentives available in other countries.
“Together, we will work hard to secure additional investment because we recognise that this will bring a significant boost to Scotland’s economy, as well as to our international reputation.
“Success here would further strengthen the package of support Scotland is able to offer so that the Scottish screen sector - our locations, our crew and our talent - can flourish. We are determined to do all we can to make that happen.”
A report from a parliamentary inquiry conducted earlier this year urged the government to come to a decision on the backing of a studio development, believed to be earmarked for Cumbernauld, in Lanarkshire, “as soon as possible.”
However an eight-week deadline for an update on the project, set by Scottish Enterprise, came and went at the beginning of April.
The report, by Holyrood’s economy committee, found that 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 supporting the industry.
Ms Hyslop insisted the studio proposal, which is being spearheaded by the private sector, was still being considered by the delivery group, but admitted the process had been frustrating and had posed “significant challenges.”
She told the summit: “That bid is currently under consideration but the need for commercial confidentiality means we are unable to provide any more detail at this time.
“It may seem that we are asking a lot in terms of your patience, but we are doing our very best to make this happen. It’s not straightforward. It’s not easy. Please bear with us.
“We need to take the time to get it right, to ensure it delivers what we all hope and need.”
Creative Scotland said it was currently preparing a “robust case” for additional funding, but added that the value of the incentive fund had “yet to be agreed.”
Natalie Usher, director of film at Creative Scotland, said: “If we are determined, rigorous and open to opportunities and always striving to to better it is possible to build a stronger future for film in Scotland.”