CREATIVE Scotland has been criticised for handing £1m of public money to the makers of big budget Netflix film Outlaw King, which a publicist for the production described as a “nice bonus”.

Half a million pounds of the award came from the Production Growth Fund, a small pot of cash intended to “deliver increased incentives for film and TV” and “attract inward investment”, according to culture secretary Fiona Hyslop. A further £500,000 of lottery funds was directed towards Outlaw King by Creative Scotland. Netflix has a revenue of $12 billion.

The publicist for Outlaw King, an historical drama about Robert the Bruce starring Chris Pine and James Cosmo, told The Sunday Herald that the cash had no bearing on Scottish director David Mackenzie’s decision to shoot the epic in Scotland.

Creative Scotland insisted last night the money helped “develop and maintain an important relationship with Netflix”.

One of the stars of the film, James Cosmo, revealed in November that the budget was upwards of £85m. One industry insider, who asked not to be named, told the Sunday Herald last night the cost is now “between £95m and £100m”.

After Creative Scotland announced the £1m of funding in December, culture minister Fiona Hyslop posed for pictures with Cosmo on the set of Outlaw King. The press release issued by the Scottish Government at the time said the grant from the Production Growth Fund was intended to “maintain a steady stream of work for Scottish-based crew by encouraging screen productions to be based in Scotland”. Hyslop added: “We know that encouraging film and TV productions to base themselves in Scotland generates significant returns for the Scottish economy and opportunities for our skilled crew.”

Announcing the fund in 2015, Hyslop said: "We are working with our partners to deliver increased incentives for film and TV. The Production Growth Fund I am announcing today will help to attract new inward investment.”

When the Sunday Herald asked Outlaw King’s publicist Louisa Radcliffe whether the public money provided to the filmmakers from the fund encouraged them to bring the production to Scotland, she said: “I wouldn’t have thought it would swing it – it was a nice bonus. How could you make a film about Robert the Bruce that wasn’t shot in Scotland? David Mackenzie has been wanting to bring this home for years. It has been a long-hatched baby.”

Scots actor and director David Hayman said £1m could have been used to make “four low budget films” and suggested the money “would have been far better put into a fund for the indigenous film industry”.

He said: “I certainly don’t think Creative Scotland should be in the business of giving a million pounds of public money to Netflix, which is awash with money.”

Outlaw King is not the first big budget film to be handed huge sums of money by Creative Scotland. In May 2016 it was announced that the sequel to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting had received half a million pounds, while Jonathan Teplitzky’s Churchill was awarded £250,000.

The annual budget for the Production Growth Fund is only £1.25m and Outlaw King received the maximum grant of £500,000, which producer Gillian Berrie said was used to employ 35 trainees.

One Scots film producer, who asked not to be identified because he “cannot afford to criticise Creative Scotland” for fear of losing funding, said: “Trainees would have been on that set anyway, as part of the set-up. It’s great that such an enormous production came to Scotland but that million pounds didn’t have to be spent to bring it here. It’s absurd.

“It looks to me like Creative Scotland is spending money inappropriately. It’s about people boosting their own personal profile. Creative Scotland needs to spend money strategically and carefully and not give millionaires handouts.”

David Hayman added: “We don’t have a viable film industry in Scotland - it’s a cottage industry. Of course, Creative Scotland should create training opportunities, as long as it’s not for the travelling circus which flies in and films here and jets off again.”

Outlaw King’s publicist declined to respond to the criticism. She said: “The studio and filmmakers don’t have any further comment to make at this stage.”

She also requested that the Sunday Herald did not publish her on-the-record comments about the funding, adding: “I am just the publicist”.


The leaders of Creative Scotland are to be questioned by MSPs who sit on the Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee on Thursday about funding decisions taken by the arts quango.

Creative Scotland has been criticised after more than a dozen groups lost out on funding, including Highlands dance company Plan B, the Ayr Gaiety Theatre, the Transmission Gallery in Glasgow, Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature Trust and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Grammy award-winning choir Dunedin Consort, Birds of Paradise and Lung Ha, the mainstay of the disability theatre sector in Scotland, and Catherine Wheels and Visible Fiction, the country's most prominent children's theatre companies, also lost out, until Creative Scotland performed a U-turn following criticism in the press and returned their funding.

Joan McAlpine MSP, the convener of the culture committee, said: “All MSPS on the committee felt that as Creative Scotland is accountable to parliament and a major recipient of public money, recent events require to be scrutinised.

“We are interested in the process of how such decisions are made, what the strategy is and what needs to change and improve.”

Last week Glasgow-born film director Tommy Gormley, who has worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Wonder Woman, told the Culture Committee there is a “great misunderstanding” at Creative Scotland about what film-making involves.

Gormley said eighty per cent of the 54 feature films he has been involved in were filmed in a studio and added: “We can't spend every day filming up in Glencoe doing scenery, you need a film studio, it's not rocket science, it's very simple.”


Creative Scotland’s head of film strategy Natalie Usher was not available for interview, according to a spokeswoman who said Usher is at a film festival in Berlin.

The spokeswoman provided a statement in Usher’s name in which she stated Creative Scotland’s funding “enabled one of Scotland’s most prolific production companies to develop and maintain an important relationship with Netflix, demonstrating that Scotland is open for business, especially for global productions of this scale”.

She added: “As well as supporting the film, Creative Scotland’s funding allowed 35 production trainees to be engaged on the production, giving them an incredible start in the industry.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the fund is “only one part of a much larger strategy to support the sector, which will be further helped by the establishment of a dedicated Screen Unit within Creative Scotland.”

The statement from Creative Scotland also said: “Film and TV production in Scotland has been experiencing a boom in recent years. We’ve seen a 200% increase in production spend since 2012 driven by both home-grown and incoming productions such as Churchill, Outlander, T2 Trainspotting and Outlaw King.

“Outlaw King is the largest feature film to be made in Scotland to date, developed and produced by home-grown talent including some of Scotland’s foremost filmmakers, writer/director David Mackenzie, producer Gillian Berrie and co-writer David Harrower.

“It is vitally important that we continue to support Scotland’s filmmakers across the broad range and scale of projects that they develop, produce or bring to Scotland, and we do this with both Scottish and international partners.”


American entertainment service Netflix began life as an online film rental service in 1997. Two years later a monthly subscription service was set up offering unlimited DVD rentals. When Netflix went public in 2002 it had 600,000 customers. By 2005 Netflix that figure had risen to more than four million. Netflix is now the world's largest internet entertainment service with over 117 million members in 190 countries.

Ten years after it was founded, Netflix introduced instant streaming of films and television programmes and in 2012 the service became available in the UK.

In recent years the streaming service commissioned content and series such as Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Stranger Things and Orange Is The New Black have won critical acclaim.

Feature films with Hollywood budgets such as Beasts of No Nation, Deathnote, Bright, Okja, Shimmer Lake and iBoy have also been well received by audiences and critics alike.