Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran warns against Alex Salmond’s disastrous plans to break up the BBC.
Margaret Curran MP (Labour, Glasgow East) is the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Scotland has always been well known as an exporter of arts and culture. From Walter Scott to the Glasgow Boys to Carol Ann Duffy, Scots have made a contribution to the arts that goes well beyond Scotland, and the UK. And as the traditional arts have expanded to include an even wider range of creative industries, Scotland’s contribution has also changed.
For many people inside and outside of Glasgow, Clydeside means shipbuilding and heavy industry.
But today the area boasts one of the most advanced TV production facilities outside of London. The BBC’s headquarters at Pacific Quay represented an investment of £188 million – part of a development that has brought a new lease of life to an empty part of the riverside.
It’s also had a knock-on effect for the whole city and the surrounding area.
More than 100 TV production companies are now based in Scotland and about 15,000 people are employed in the industry. These are the companies behind shows like Question Time and The Culture Show, which are broadcast every week across the UK.
And on Thursday night millions tuned in to see the new series of Waterloo Road on BBC One. What they may not have realised is that production of the show is now based in Greenock, 25 miles down the River Clyde from Glasgow. This production alone is bringing 200 jobs and £20 million into the Scottish economy over the next two years.
This TV boom in Scotland has been one of the success stories of the last few years, even through the recession. But on Friday Alex Salmond said he wanted to push the BBC out and create his own Scottish Broadcasting Corporation in a separate Scotland.
This came with no detailed explanation of how it would be done or what it would mean for Scottish viewers or the jobs that rely on the BBC.
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It seems Alex Salmond is happy to pick up the baton where the Murdochs left off.
The first minister wants to convince us that in a separate Scotland, our TV industry will continue to go from strength to strength. But what he fails to recognise is that it is taking advantage of everything the UK has to offer – the appeal of working in a new and dynamic creative centre such as Glasgow, combined with free access to a market of 55 million people – that draws many of the new and cutting edge creative companies to Scotland.
There are three lessons I think we can learn from the success of our television industry in Scotland.
The first is the creative industries offer an opportunity to create sustainable jobs and economic growth for Scotland, and for the whole of the UK. As we look to rebalance our economy after the economic crisis we need to look to these new and growing businesses for examples of success that offer long term opportunities and don’t just rely on retail and banking.
Secondly, the creative industries can’t, and increasingly aren’t, the prevail of one particular part of our country. It’s something we can all share in. To see this, you don’t need to look much further than the Digital Media Quarter in Glasgow. There’s no reason our other Scottish cities, or even the towns surrounding them, can’t share in this growth, with the right infrastructure and support.
Finally, it requires political will. The burgeoning independent production sector in Glasgow didn’t land there by chance. It was a political decision by a Labour government that resulted in large parts of the BBC relocating to Glasgow, and we can be rightly proud that 9 per cent of the BBC’s network spend now comes from Scotland – a dramatic increase in a very short period of time.
Like much of Alex Salmond’s case for independence, his speech on Friday was high on assertion and low on detail. We know Labour’s policy on broadcasting meant jobs and growth for Scotland and a new lease of life for parts of our towns and cities; can the first minister say the same for his?
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