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Investment in Scotland's film industry is overdue

Today sees the release of a Hollywood movie and the publication of a government report that together reveal the successes and failures of Scotland's film industry.

The movie is called Under the Skin and stars Scarlett Johansson as a carnivorous alien who searches the streets for men she can devour. It was made in Glasgow in 2011 and is one of a number of films that have come to Scotland in recent years including World War Z, Filth and Sunshine on Leith. They prove what we have known for a long time: Scotland is attractive to movie-makers looking for beautiful, striking locations.

In contrast, the new report which is published today highlights a different story, specifically the fact that Scotland still does not have studio facilities to rival those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is despite the persistent and increasingly loud calls of many leading figures in the industry for new, purpose-built studios as part of a wider strategy to attract more film-making to Scotland.

Commissioned by the Scottish Government with Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise, today's report looks at some of the options for such a studio, ranging from the most expensive at Gartcosh, at £74.3m, to a much cheaper version at £15m, the plan being that most of the money would come from the private sector, partly because of EU rules restricting state funding. The next step is to establish the scale of the interest from the private sector and develop a business case for the public investment.

Today's report is effectively a green light to these plans, although it is a green light that is grossly overdue. For years, Scottish governments have dithered and allowed valuable opportunities to melt away, most recently the chance of Pinewood building its new studios in Scotland. It was clear Pinewood wanted to come to Scotland, but for reasons that are still unclear, the welcome was lukewarm. Wales, on the other hand, love-bombed Pinewood and so its studio is to be built there, in Cardiff. It is a big success for Wales and an embarrassing loss for Scotland.

The new report is an opportunity to make up some of this lost ground, although Scotland is undoubtedly a long way behind the rest of the UK. One bright spot has been the studios built at Cumbernauld for the Outlander series, which demonstrate what can be done with a combination of private money and public investment (the studio received tax breaks from the UK Treasury).

What the Scottish Government must do now is pursue the plans for a new studio with the utmost speed and repair the damage that has been caused to the industry by lack of support shown in recent years. It should also recognise that, although the studio is the most important step in regenerating the film industry in Scotland, it is only the first. The success in Northern Ireland, Wales, Sweden and other countries has come about not just because they have good facilities; it is also because they have spent money on marketing their countries as good places to make movies. Scotland must do the same.

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Arts and Entertainment

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