The debate over who will inherit the UKFC’s Lottery millions when it finally closes its doors rumbles on. Possible beneficiaries include the Arts Council of England, the BFI and NESTA but the potential role of regional and national agencies, including our own Creative Scotland, has received rather less media attention.
In a recent response to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee enquiry into the future of Arts and Heritage funding Screen England, representing the nine regional screen agencies, argues:
“With the UKFC no longer in existence, and the structure of LEPs [Local Enterprise Partnerships] not yet determined, it is imperative that any future restructuring of funding should incorporate a strong recognition of the creative industries, so that this vital sector can continue to grow, to protect jobs and revenue, and to play its part in helping the UK out of recession. As we move into an increasingly digital future, we believe it is the Screen Agencies, or whatever they evolve into, that are best placed to continue to deliver this support.”
As if to underline the current precariousness of public support for the screen industries, in an otherwise unrelated development one of the nine regional agencies, Screen East, went bust this week “following reports of financial irregularities and the arrest of one of its managers” according to the Guardian. However in a show of solidarity the other regional screen agencies have, Broadcast reports, rallied round to help those ‘Eastern’ film projects threatened with collapse.
While Soho is abuzz with speculation about how many and whose hands will be signing the cheques on their next project, North of the Border (and indeed South of it) one of the many little known facts about the UKFC is how much it regularly spent in Scotland, supporting not just film production but distribution, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, training (Interest to declare: Screen Academy Scotland has received more than £1m of UKFC Lottery funding via Skillset since 2005) and much else besides. A quick inspection of the extremely useful DCMS national lottery grant database reveals that in excess of £1m a year has been coming to Scotland since 1999 and more detailed analyses taking into account funding awarded in the first instance to bodies with English postcodes suggest something approaching £1.5m a year. Adding that to the two to three million of Lottery funding that Scottish Screen historically received would be a fifty percent increase in the resources available to the making, showing and understanding of the moving image. That could make a profound contribution to achieving the step change in Scottish cinema that future generations richly deserve.
At this year’s TV Festival, when I asked James Hunt ( having declared himself a firm supporting of devolving money and decision making), whether he would support devolution of Broadcasting powers to the Scottish Parliament he ruled that out. Well now he has a chance to redeem his devolutionary credentials…