We think of Scotland as a cinematic country, a place people have come to, to make films, from the vintage delights of Whisky Galore to the cheese of Highlander. We also make our own films here, including the cartoonish grit of Trainspotting and the darker Red Road.
But, like Braveheart itself, this tale we tell ourselves is pretty substantially a myth. For the movie and TV industries we’re a sideshow, somewhere to come for a few days of location shooting when they need the outside of Eilean Donan or a douce New Town street scene. Those classic Scottish movies are often great, but they are the exceptions.
The reality is much bleaker. Holyrood reported this year that Scotland saw just £30m of the £1bn revenue associated with the UK film industry. And it’s not a shortage of talent or castles: it’s the absence of a dedicated large-scale studio space.
As an example, Doune Castle stood in for Winterfell in early episodes of Game of Thrones, but the show decamped to the Titanic Studios in Belfast. Estimates are that around £160m of revenue was lost to Scotland.
That sum, from one show alone, puts into perspective the efforts of the Scottish Government. Although, to their credit, they recognised the problem back in 2013, the £3m in grants and loans ministers allocated remains unspent.
Scotland should be a honey-pot for film and TV dramas, and the opportunities that come alongside it for tourism, skills development, and much more.
The benefits aren’t just economic, either. We all enjoy consuming culture but it would do us no harm to be producers of culture in greater volumes too. We should be telling our own tales, producing our own shows.
We don’t have to wait for independence, either. We need to listen to Scotland’s film industry, and ministers will have Green support if they decide to look for ways to deepen their support. Without a modern studio space Scotland will remain a TV and movie backwater, something none of us wants.
• Zara Kitson is culture spokesperson for the Scottish Greens