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Politics Matters: Blockbuster scenery but we need more lights, camera, action on a studio my suggestion to the First Minister is that she adds ‘Highlands Film Studio’ to her 2022 New Year resolution to-do list

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David Stewart columnist.
David Stewart columnist.

One of my favourite actors is the star from Highlander and Game of Thrones, James Cosmo. During my Westminster days, I hosted a lunch for him in the Commons to discuss a project of his – a film studio based in Inverness.

Readers will know that our area, with its beautiful scenery, has proved to be a location of choice for many Hollywood blockbusters, such as Braveheart, Harry Potter and Rob Roy.

Such publicity is also a good move for our important tourism businesses, from restaurants to hotels, and puts the Highlands on the “film tourism” map for visitors from across the globe.

However, as James Cosmo told me at our lunch, in order for film crews to stay longer and attract new entrants, we need a sophisticated, state-of-the-art film studio in the north.

Sadly, the project to build the film studio just south of Inverness, off the A9, failed at the last hurdle. That was over 20 years ago.

Yet, I read in the national press just a few days ago, from Skye-based producer Chris Young, whose credits include Channel 4’s The Inbetweeners, that the north needs support if it is to be more than a “fantastic backdrop” for visiting Hollywood’s productions.

Speaking to The Times last week, he said: “We need to do everything we can to ensure that the people who do come up here are not just stopping off at the central belt and coming here to do the exterior locations.

“The Highlands and Islands has a part to play but we’re not getting enough support. There is too much focus on the central belt.”

My suggestion to the First Minister is that she adds “Highlands Film Studio” to her 2022 New Year resolution to-do list.

n One of the greatest strengths of the Scottish Parliament in my view is the ability of ordinary backbench MSPs to put forward their own ideas for new legislation.

Members Bills are highly sought-after and serve as a good counter-balance to the “superpower” clout of the Scottish Government.

In my 14 years at Holyrood, my scorecard read: Bills presented – three, Bills passed – two, Bills fallen - one.

My first Bill was to create a Scottish victims commissioner. I was delighted with the support it received across Scotland from victims’ groups, such as Victim Support Scotland.

Alas, the Bill ran out of Parliamentary time and as it was given no Scottish Government assurances of support, I was unable to pursue my campaign.

However, I read in the Daily Record last week that Kevin Woodburn, whose footballer son Shaun was sadly murdered five years ago, is now campaigning to create a victims commissioner.

He said in the Record: “We need a victims champion to ensure the system will protect and promote the rights of people affected by serious crime with those systems trauma-informed.”

Mr Woodburn has met with justice secretary Keith Brown MSP, who appears supportive of the creation of a victims commissioner.

I welcome the Scottish Government’s change of heart. For too long in Scotland, victims have been a forgotten underclass. It is time to see victims appear centre stage in our justice system.

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