An £80m plan for a new international film studio on the grounds of Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, could start building as early as 2019, its organisers say.

Guardhouse Studios, backed by private money in the US, hope to file detailed planning applications with the City of Edinburgh Council later this summer, in a trans-European plan which will link it to another new studio in the north of Italy.

If the plan goes ahead, it would be the second major film studio project to be given the green light in Scotland this year, with Scottish ministers backing the £250m plan for studio by Pentlands Studio Limited in Straiton, Midlothian.

The Heriot-Watt plan, which will consist of eight sound stages and four support buildings, with water tanks and two backlots, has been designed by the leading Edinburgh-based architects Reiach and Hall.

Scotland has had a successful recent past in attracting major films - Trainspotting 2 was shot in Edinburgh, as was Avengers: Infinity War and the historical biopic Churchill.

However, the lack of a major film studios north of the border has long been lamented in Scotland, and recently MSPs heard how filmmakers have been forced to use industrial sheds as facilities, which are converted only for a short period of time.

Surya Iacono, president of Guardhouse Studios, met with the Film Studio Delivery Group last year , has had talks with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government have also been brief on the scheme.

She said all of the financing for the plans have been "signed off" by the plans as-yet anonymous backers.

Ms Iacono added: "We break ground in Italy on February 1, 2018.

"We have now legally agreed to break ground on construction in Scotland in 2019, with an exact date to be determined based on construction completion in Italy, and how well and fast the permitting and planning processes go in Scotland.

"We will file full and detailed permitting and planning consents for the Scotland studios in July/August.

"We are in positive on-going discussions with Heriot Watt regarding the land and are were encouraged by our formal meetings in May."

She added: "We are proud to be working with Scotland's best architect team, Reiach and Hall and Italy's best Engineering and Architecture group Lombardini 22, out of Milan.

"On behalf of our entire team, we are very proud to be bringing to Scotland their first and very own purpose built film studios.

"And in Italy we are very excited to be building the very first privately owned film studios in that country."

Property developers GVA, led by senior director Keith Aitken, are working with Guardhouse on the plans.

Allan McQuade, director of Business Infrastructure at Scottish Enterprise and a key figure in the process, said: "We’ve had initial discussions with the developer around their early-stage proposals for a film studio at Guardhouse.

"We welcome any plans for private sector investment in the film sector in Scotland.”

A spokeswoman for Heriot-Watt University said: “We met with Surya Iacono and other representatives of Guardhouse to discuss their proposals for a film studio, and related academic and innovation activity which would benefit the local region.

"It was a positive meeting but discussions are at an early stage.

"We look forward to further talks to explore options and details of the Guardhouse proposals."

Earlier this year Ms Iacono said the film studio project plans is only for a film studio, and attendant educational facilities, and has no retail or other elements.

She added: "I am 150% certain that this will work, and sure that Scotland can sustain our business plan.

"Scotland needs film industry infrastructure, you have so many major productions coming to Scotland to film, like Avengers [shot in Edinburgh] but they have nowhere to process they go down to England and Wales," she said.

"There's no good reason why Scotland cannot have a studio.

"It offers jobs and a creative space for film makers, and in another world, if Scotland becomes indepedent, Scotland will absolutely need an independent film studio of its own.

"If Estonia can build a film studio of its own, if Yorkshire can, then Scotland has to - it has too much to offer."