MSPs call for separate Scots film and TV agency

MSPs say the unit should be moved out of Creative Scotland.
MSPs say the unit should be moved out of Creative Scotland.
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Scotland must have its own agency devoted to fostering the film and television industries, an influential parliamentary report has said.

MSPs on Holyrood’s culture committee have called for the nation’s existing Screen Unit to be moved out of Creative Scotland to become an independent agency.

The committee has taken the unusual step of publishing an interim report recommending the move to free the Screen Unit from bureaucracy and to capitalise on opportunities offered by online screening platforms such as Netflix.

The report said the filming of the Outlander series in Cumbernauld had brought more than $400 million (£295m) of investment. But since then there had been a failure to invest in studio space and capitalise of the opportunities offered by the industry.

“Other regions and nations have overtaken us,” the report said. “Scotland secured only a small portion of the £2 billion spent on productions in the UK in 2015. That must change. We must secure and sustain several large productions in Scotland at any one time.”

The report said the current structure with the Screen Unit within Creative Scotland meant there were “cumbersome governance arrangements”, which were “overly bureaucratic”.

“The head of the unit will work to a screen committee made up predominantly of public sector partner agencies, and the Creative Scotland board with only one person with any industry experience.” it noted.

“We want a vibrant screen sector in Scotland. That requires a standalone agency which is not encumbered by bureaucracy and is industry led.

“An autonomous Screen Scotland will help nurture, develop and support indigenous talent, deliver more studio capacity, attract major productions and represent Scotland to the rest of the world.”

After hearing from leading figures in the industry, the committee said: “It has become clear that the proposal for the Screen Unit will not deliver the step-change in support that the screen sector in Scotland needs to be sustainable and successful in a fast-changing global market.”

Setting up a Screen Unit in Creative Scotland “is a public sector – and not a screen sector – solution”, the MSPs added.

Committee convener and SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said: “It has become clear to us that the proposal for the Screen Unit, while a move in the right direction, will not deliver the transformation the screen sector in Scotland needs to be sustainable and successful in a fast-changing global market.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is an exciting time for the screen industry in Scotland. Production spend has increased by 200 per cent since 2007 and Scotland is securing major productions and attracting organisations such as the National Film and Television School.

“There are many opportunities ahead and the public sector, through the screen unit, is committed to helping the industry seize them.”