River City visit

Yesterday I joined local MSP Jackie Baillie in visiting Shieldinch, the set of River City, on a tour of their studios in Dumbarton. There we met the show’s newest stars Sanjeev Kohli (Navid from Still Game) and Dawn Steele (Lexie from Monarch of the Glen)

As Scottish Labour’s Democracy spokesperson I’ll be leading our response to the BBC’s Charter Renewal Process so it was great to see how important the studios are to the sector and the local economy.

Charter Renewal must be about securing the best deal for the licence fee payer and ensuring we have a have a sustainable BBC in Scotland, where skills are harnessed and quality programmes produced.

Claire raises film studio at FMQs

During First Minister questions yesterday I raised the lack of progress on a film studio in Scotland. When I first came into the role as culture spokesperson for the party the Scottish Government were on the verge of announcing their plans. Nine months later I am still waiting but for the sector the wait has been much, much longer.

Their frustration at this lack of progress was clear to those who attended a Creative Industries conference in Edinburgh this week. I chaired a session in the morning of the conference that included the progress, priorities and next steps of Scotland’s screen industries and it was clear to me that the long wait for the studio is, according to many, beginning to hinder the growth of that sector.

Arabella Page Croft, a leading producer that can count the recent (and popular) Sunshine on Leith amongst her works, highlighted that 20 years ago Scotland was the biggest production cluster outside London. Now we are 6th behind Wales, Northern Ireland and regions of England. Continue reading

Creative Industries debate and BBC Charter Renewal

On Thursday I questioned the First Minister during FMQ’s about the future of the BBC before going on to lead for the Scottish Labour Party in a debate on the Creative Industries in Scotland.

We know that the BBC is facing a very tough licence fee settlement and we need to balance being ambitious alongside maintaining quality. That is why I called for an open debate that is led by licence fee payers during FMQs.

During the debate I cautioned that I have yet to see evidence that the Scottish public are calling out for a Scottish-only channel and we must ask if such a move is an appropriate use of licence fee payers’ money considering the considerable cost of such a move.

I also raised my reservations about moving to a federal system within the BBC. Many will remember the controversy when STV didn’t show Downton Abbey when it first aired in the rest of the UK. If we move to a system of buying and selling shows within the BBC then we could find popular BBC programmes not being available in Scotland. Continue reading

Scottish Government’s Legislative Programme

Yesterday the First Minister launched her Government’s programme for 2015-16. This will be the legislation that the Scottish Government will bring forward ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

With the Scottish election on the horizon, we have a shorter parliamentary year than normal so it is important that we use the time that we have to make progress in a number of key areas.

I was delighted to be able to speak during the debate. I want to see the transfer of power to local communities, empowering them to deliver the change that they need. It won’t be easy for a number of factors but the rewards will be huge if we see people engaging more in their communities, making decisions every day rather than just at the ballot box. Continue reading

First Minister must distance herself from Salmond’s BBC remarks

Today the First Minister gave the Alternative MacTaggart at the Edinburgh International Television Festival to discuss the upcoming BBC Charter Renewal.

Yesterday I visited BBC Scotland’s headquarters at Pacific Quay and I made the call for Nicola to distance herself from Alex Salmond’s recent attacks on the BBC. It is vital that the charter renewal process isn’t driven by political ideology or grievance, it cannot be about settling old scores.

Throughout the Charter Renewal process I will be calling for increased investment for BBC Scotland and for the retention of the quotas system for commissioning. It is important that we have a sustainable BBC in Scotland, where skills are harnessed and quality programmes are produced.   Continue reading

BBC Charter can’t be driven by political ideology or grievance

Today (16th July) the Conservative Government at Westminster launched a Green Paper on renewal of the BBC’s Charter which is due in 2016. For the first time in the charter renewal process, the Scottish Parliament will have a consultative role in the process, following the Smith Report.

The BBC is one of our greatest institutions, envied the world over and treasured by many here at home. That is why today I warned against using the upcoming charter renewal process as a time to settle old scores and have it driven by political ideology or grievance.

In the lead up to last week’s budget, the Conservative Government blindsided the BBC by essentially cutting their budget. This was achieved by forcing the BBC to take control of free TV licensees for over 75s, something that was previous paid for by the Government. This week we have the announcement of a hand-picked group of advisors to report directly to the Government on charter renewal, weakening the public’s voice in the process.

This cannot be allowed to happen in Scotland. Continue reading

Film and TV studio vital for Scottish film industry

Today I have called for the Scottish Government to clarify what plans it has for a new film and TV studio to ensure that the Scottish film industry is not left behind its UK counterparts. I have made the calls following news that Screen Yorkshire has announced its new plans for film studio outside Leeds.

Scotland has the skills, talent and scenery to be at the forefront of the film industry, not just here in Britain but across Europe and the world. However without a dedicated national film and TV studio it faces being left behind.

Recently the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Energy and Tourism Committee published a report on the economic impact of Scotland’s creative industries (including the film and TV industry). Continue reading