PLANS for Scotland's first international film studio, part of a £138 million development outside Edinburgh, will be revealed to the public next week.


The backers of the Pentland Studios plan, which involves the construction of a £31m film studio as part of a major development at Straiton, believe they could start construction on the country's first major film shooting facility as early as October.

The privately funded scheme, which includes eight sound stages and 260,000 sq ft of space for productions, would also, its backers believe, avoid the legal complications faced by a publicly-backed studio.

The Scottish Government set up a Film Studio Delivery Group early in 2014 to pave the way for a studio, but as yet no public progress has been made.

Both the government and Scottish Enterprise (SE) are aware that European rules over state aid for business make the public funding of a competitive enterprise problematic.

A studio in Spain backed by public money had to close after legal challenges from commercial rivals and it is understood both the Government and SE, as well as Creative Scotland, are wary of backing a studio which could be successfully challenged.

State aid is defined by the European Commission as "an advantage in any form whatsoever conferred on a selective basis to undertakings by national public authorities".A government spokeswoman confirmed: "Any investment of public funding to support studio infrastructure developments must meet EU state aid rules."

The Pentland Studios plan, however, involves no public money. Its backers pulled out of the official public-funded process last year after state aid rules were clarified in June 2014.

Among the partners behind Pentland Studios is Jeremy Pelzer, a former studio chief at London's Ealing Studios and a former head of London's Elstree Studios.

The plans for the 106-acre site - chosen from 28 in Scotland scouted by its investors - will be laid before the community in Straiton on Wednesday and the developers hope final plans can be discussed by Midlothian Council in August.

Building work would start in October and the first productions, the developers hope, would begin filming in 2017.

It is hoped that four studios of eight will be operational by that date.

The largest will be 30,000 sq ft and have a height of 70ft.

The plans also include a 50-acre back lot, enabling the expansion of sets and facilities for large scale films.

The public will be able to view the plans for the mixed use development, which includes a hotel, between 2pm and 7pm in Asda Straiton.

If Pentland Studios goes ahead, it would put a question mark over a bid to build a studio in Scotland's largest city.

Before Christmas, an open letter signed by dozens of leading names in the Scottish film industry urged the government to build a studio in Glasgow.

It called on the Scottish Government's Film Studio Delivery Group to build a studio in Glasgow after "years of inertia and procrastination" and said the city would be the best site for such a studio as it has a "competitive advantage and baseline of strong screen activity to expand on".

Tiernan Kelly, of Film City Glasgow, which wants to build a film studio in Govan, said: "This won't have any impact on our proposals or indeed what Film City Glasgow does day to day.

"If anything, I admire their endeavour.

"However, given that the Film Studio Delivery Group has spent over 21 months and a six-figure sum deliberating on a sustainable studio for Scotland, I very much hope that the group is close to recognising the depth of feeling in the indigenous industry that currently, the metrics of place, connectivity, accessibility and sustainability can be only fully realised within the city of Glasgow."

Last night a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We have been working hard with our partners at Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise to make progress on a film studio for Scotland.

"The process involves assessing what private sector opportunities are available and what if any public support might be required."

A spokesman for Scottish Enterprise said: "State aid rules have always been recognised as a significant factor in funding options for the proposed film studio and we continue to work hard with our partners at Creative Scotland and Scottish Government to make progress on a state aid compliant film studio for Scotland."