THE TRON Theatre in Glasgow is to benefit from the most substantial award so far from the National Lottery to a Scottish arts organisation, it was announced yesterday.

The theatre, which has just lost both its artistic director and its general manager, will receive #4.3m towards a major redevelopment costed at almost #5m. The plans, which affect every aspect of the theatre's Glasgow Cross site, will provide vastly improved backstage and technical facilities, new rehearsal and studio theatre space, as well as improvements to the auditorium and the frontage and front-of-house facilities.

Not only is the grant by far the largest award so far made by the lottery committee of the Scottish Arts Council, it also represents a more substantial than usual proportion of the project's total cost.

The SAC's lottery director, Mr David Bonnar, said yesterday that the committee had always taken a flexible attitude to the necessity for ``matching'' funding and in this case had taken into account money already raised by the Tron for other works.

The theatre is currently having roof, stonework, and window repairs completed in a #500,000 contract funded by Historic Scotland, the European Regional Development Fund, and Glasgow City Council. The new development has already attracted #388,800 of partnership funding, #350,000 of it from the ERDF and the balance from Glasgow Development Agency and the Scottish Arts Council. A theatre spokeswoman said yesterday that a further #97,200 was being sought from other sources.

The chairman of the Tron Theatre board, Mr Michael Russell, said: ``This award is an endorsement of everything we have been doing over the past five, even 10 years. We had these plans before the lottery even existed and the approval of them is a great bonus for the staff.''

Mr Russell said that, while some interviews had taken place for the senior appointments which have to be made, it could still be two months before a final decision is announced due to the holiday period. The vacancies were created by the departure of general manager David Taylor to the Scottish Arts Council and artistic director Michael Boyd to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Mr Boyd admitted that he was disappointed to be leaving the Tron at such a time.

``My decision to go to the RSC was made on its own merits, but of course I have regrets about not seeing through plans that go back to 1993, when we applied to the Scottish Arts Council for funding for a feasibility study. But David Taylor and I are leaving the theatre without a deficit and now there is this award. Whoever comes in is on a more than even playing field.''

He emphasised that the plans would transform a theatre that had laboured under the burdens of primitive lighting equipment, a tiny backstage area, having to hire rehearsal space elsewhere, and having the slowest ``get-in'' for visiting companies of any venue in Scotland. The changes will also mean that the theatre has the facilties to develop its own education programme.

Work is expected to begin in January and take two years to complete.

While coverage of English arts council lottery awards has attracted negative publicity for the substantial sums being given to venues like London's Royal Court and the Covent Garden opera house, the Scottish committee has now made awards to many of the main theatres in Scotland. While the award to the Tron is by far the largest, substantial grants have already been made to The Byre in St Andrews, Musselburgh's Brunton, Eden Court in Inverness, Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum, and the Glasgow Citizens'.

The committee chairman, Mr Douglas Connell, emphasised that fears of lottery cash being used to build ``white elephant'' arts venues that could not attract revenue funding to meet their running costs had proved unfounded, since the lottery had chiefly been used to meet long-overdue capital expenditure.

Yesterday's announcement of 33 lottery grants totalled more than #7m and was the largest single round of awards made by the council. A further #2m was made to six film productions, half of which will go to Lake Film Productions towards the cost of a follow-up to the 1980 film Gregory's Girl, to be directed by Bill Forsyth, who made the original.

Other awards include grants for the purchase of new instruments to music groups as diverse as the Clarsach Society (#14,000) and the Carriba Stargazers Steel Band (#10,250), and #45,000 to Ullapool community radio station Lochbroom FM - which has publically been supported by Virgin Radio's chief executive David Campbell - towards the purchase and fitting out of a new building.