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9 March 2016, 14:18
Up to £4 million of Scottish Government cash could be used to help fund the development of a film and TV studio in Scotland, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has revealed.
The owners of Wardpark Studios in Cumbernauld - where production of Sony's hit show Outlander takes place - are expected to submit plans for a major expansion within days.
The proposals, which have already been the subject of detailed negotiations involving the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and arts body Creative Scotland, could see 30,000 sq ft of purpose-built studio space constructed at the site.
Ms Hyslop told Holyrood's Economy Committee ministers could provide up to "4 million to help with the project - including £1.5 million in grant funding and up to £2.5 million of loan cash.
It is understood a planning application from Wardpark Studios will be submitted to local authority leaders at North Lanarkshire Council later this week.
Concerns have been raised about the shortage of studio space in Scotland, including fears the country is missing out on valuable TV and film projects as a result.
Ms Hyslop said Wardpark Studios' decision to seek planning consent was "an important milestone in our work to strengthen the Scottish screen sector''.
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.''
Mr Fraser pressed her further, saying: "You still can't tell us when or even if any of these projects will be delivered.''
The Culture Secretary said: "They are being private-sector led, the timescale for this is driven by the private-sector involvement, as it is in other developments elsewhere.''