Scotland’s new Hollywood is on course to become a £1 billion industry – Angus Robertson MSP

The stand-out good news story in the Scottish economy is the rip-roaring success of the screen sector.

Outlander star Caitriona Balfe takes a break from filming to pose for pictures with fans (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Outlander star Caitriona Balfe takes a break from filming to pose for pictures with fans (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Not only is its present value estimated at over £500 million, three times larger than previously calculated, but if trends continue it is on course to pass £1 billion by 2030.

Only a few years ago, it was a very different story with limited studio space, underperforming production levels and an outflow of talent. Top film and TV programme making in Scotland was such an irregular thing that the exceptions to the rule were feted in the hope of better days.

Committed people in the sector always knew that Scotland had tremendous potential. The question was how could one overcome the market failure which conspired against new studios and productions.

When the history books are written, the Outlander TV series will be seen as as a trailblazer. Having decided to film the hit show in Scotland, a studio followed, local crew skills were developed and the point was proved: Scotland is an excellent place for film ands TV productions. Outlander is now onto series six.

In recent years, further studios have been developed in Leith, West Lothian and Glasgow in addition to Cumbernauld. In addition to key commissions from public service broadcasters the BBC and Channel 4, the arrival of streaming services has created a whole new pipeline of commissions.

Amazon alone has been shooting The Rig and Anansi Boys at FirstStage Studios in Leith, Good Omens has been filmed at the Pyramids Business Park in Bathgate. Meanwhile central Glasgow was transformed into Gotham City for the shooting of Batgirl as a full-length Hollywood production in Scotland.

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The first comprehensive study of its kind has demonstrated the value of Scotland’s film and TV industries to the country’s employment and economic prosperity.

Commissioned by Screen Scotland and produced by Saffery Champness and Nordicity, this new independent report finds that the screen sector in Scotland contributed £567.6million to Scotland’s economy in 2019, providing 10,280 full-time equivalent jobs.

The wide-ranging study analyses the economic contribution of the screen sector value chain – film and TV development and production, animation, VFX and post-production, film and TV distribution, TV broadcast, film exhibition – which extends into the businesses that provide services at each stage of the content process, including facilities, equipment, transport, catering and accommodation.

Beyond that direct supply chain, the study looks at where the screen sector stimulates economic activity elsewhere in the Scottish economy: screen tourism, the education and training sectors and infrastructure.

The future for the film and TV sector in Scotland is bright and getting brighter. We are fortunate to have an extremely talented team at Screen Scotland who promote the industry and its development in this country, including its executive director Isabel Davis.

She says of the report: “This is the first true benchmark of the value of Scotland’s screen sector and it’s far larger than has been captured by previous studies. Better still, we see the potential to double GVA by 2030, if investment in local content, production skills and infrastructure continues.”

Scotland’s screen sector is reaching a critical mass with new studios, production projects, jobs, skills and domestic as well as global industry interest. We need to keep up the good work to help it reach its full potential.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary