'Outlander' film studio in Cumbernauld in bid to expand
A privately-owned film studio in North Lanarkshire used by the TV series Outlander is hoping to secure up to £4m public money for a massive expansion.
Wardpark Studios has four sound stages across 48,000 sq ft. It wants to add two more stages, a back lot and offices in a 30,000 sq ft development.
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said that a planning application for the Cumbernauld site was imminent.
Opposition MPs remain critical over the lack of film studio facilities.
Ms Hyslop told Holyrood's Economy Committee that ministers could provide up to £4m to help with the project - including £1.5m in grant funding and up to £2.5m of loan cash.
"Wardpark Studios Limited's decision to seek planning consent for new studio facilities in Cumbernauld marks an important milestone in our work to strengthen the Scottish screen sector," she said.
Opposition MSPs questioned Ms Hyslop on the scale of the development.
Former Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "It doesn't seem like it's huge amounts of money and and it seems to have taken a long time to get to that point."
Committee convener Murdo Fraser said figures from Creative Scotland showed Wales has 51,000 sq ft of purpose-built studio space, with Northern Ireland having 42,000 sq ft, while Scotland currently has only 5,800 sq ft.
The Conservative MSP said: "The 30,000 sq ft you are talking about sounds a lot, but if that is a purpose-built studio that leaves us still quite a long way behind Wales and Northern Ireland.
"It seems to me that there has been a lot of heat around this issue, the government's been under pressure, there's an election coming up in eight weeks' time, and what you have done is produce a rabbit from a hat.
"Except it's not a very large rabbit, it's actually quite a small rabbit."
Ms Hyslop insisted: "In terms of the announcement, I think it's good news for Scotland and good news for the film industry."
She hinted at more development to come, saying: "For a period we had no prospect of any studios and now we have got prospects for not just one, but a number of studios, depending on different decisions made by either ministers or other developers in other areas."
Terry Thomson, chairman of Wardpark Studios Limited, said the planned expansion of the Cumbernauld site reflected its success.
"Our existing facility has been a major success for Scotland, attracting Sony's award-winning historical drama Outlander's first and second series," he said.
"We want to enhance the existing four sound stages with a further two stages to expand and grow productions using the facility.
"Our planning application seeks to make the most of the existing facilities and land available. While we've reached agreement in principle with Scottish Enterprise and the Film Studio Delivery Group on possible financial support, there remain a few commercial details still to be finalised before we can move ahead with our plans."
Ms Hyslop also told MSPs that there had been "significantly increased activity" during 2014 with film and TV productions spending "an unprecedented £45.8m shooting on location" - an increase of almost £12m on 2013.
Examples of films shot in Scotland since 2011 include:
- Tommy's Honour (St Andrews);
- Swung (Glasgow);
- Iona (Iona);
- The Legend of Barney Thomson (Glasgow);
- Moon Dogs (Shetland, Glasgow, Ayrshire);
- World War Z (Glasgow);
- The Dark Knight Rises (Highlands);
- Skyfall (Highlands);
- Fast and Furious 6 (Glasgow);
- Cloud Atlas (Glasgow);
- Under the Skin (various locations);
- Sunset Song (various Aberdeenshire locations);
- Sunshine on Leith (Edinburgh); and
- Macbeth (Isle of Skye).