During First Minister questions yesterday I raised the lack of progress on a film studio in Scotland. When I first came into the role as culture spokesperson for the party the Scottish Government were on the verge of announcing their plans. Nine months later I am still waiting but for the sector that wait has been much, much longer.
Their frustration at this lack of progress was clear to those who attended a Creative Industries conference in Edinburgh this week. I chaired a session in the morning of the conference that included the progress, priorities and next steps of Scotland’s screen industries and it was clear to me that the long wait for the studio is, according to many, beginning to hinder the growth of that sector.
Arabella Page Croft, a leading producer who can count the recent (and highly popular) Sunshine on Leith amongst her works, highlighted that 20 years ago Scotland was the biggest production cluster outside London. Now we are 6th – behind Wales, Northern Ireland and regions of England.
The Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee recently published a report that also demonstrated the impact a lack of a film studio is having, not just on the sector but on our economy as a whole. The report, which was debated in Parliament last week, highlighted that:
“The evidence received by the Committee suggests that the lack of large-scale studio space is detrimental to Scotland‘s ability to attract big budget productions, other than location shooting, and therefore the most pressing industry requirement is for a film and TV studio based in Scotland.”
The committee recommended that the Scottish Government, along with Scottish Enterprise, reach a decision on a film and TV studio as soon as possible.
Scotland has the skills, the talent and the scenery to be at the forefront of the film industry. What we lack is the studio.
Whilst the Scottish Government dithers and the film industry in Scotland waits, the rest of the UK is moving on. Over the summer a film studio announcement was made by Screen Yorkshire, who announced plans for a new studio just outside Leeds and has already begun showing productions around. We cannot risk falling further behind.
We have our success stories in Scotland and we should be proud of them. Outlander, filmed in a studio in Cumbernauld and on location throughout Scotland, is a huge success in America and beyond. It is the chief reason behind the recent record figures that film and TV productions spent a record £45.2 million shooting on location in Scotland last year.
But for every Outlander there is a Game of Thrones. A top quality show lost due to a lack of infrastructure.
All too often we are missing out on major productions, and rising talent feel the urge to go further afield to fulfil their potential. A film and TV studio would go a long way towards ensuring that these skills and talents can be retained in Scotland.