Why its time for Scotland to be butch about its games industry

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Sir Gerry Robinson’s advice to the Global Irish Economic Forum is to take decisive action and target  4 or 5 games companies from Scotland to relocate to Ireland by providing a package of support including five years of tax incentives.   Ireland built up its film industry by taking action in this way and now boasts  a thriving audio visual sector which now contributes 557m to the economy.

Countries across the world are investing in their creative industries to get out of the recession – even in Iceland

The Scottish and UK Governments are fully aware of the vital importance of the games industry to the Scottish economy. There have been several reports now making a strong economic argument for investment in the games industry throughout the Creative Britain process, the Digital Britain report  and, specifically,  by NESTA and by TIGA, the games industries association.  TIGA’s most recent report:

presents a robust argument for the introduction of a tax break for the UK video games industry, similar to the tax credit which already exists for the UK Film Industry. This report was submitted to the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport on August 28, 2009.
Key report findings included:
  • Over 5 years the Games Tax Relief would create 1,400 new jobs in the studio sector
  • 60-80 UK developed titles would benefit per year
  • A tax credit would trigger growth in employment, new game development, innovation and investment, and more sustainable business models for British studios
  • By year 5, for every £100 of investment by government in the Games Tax Relief, the industry will invest £176.
  • Over 5 years the Games Tax Relief would increase investment by games studios by £146m, direct and indirect annual tax revenues by £133m and GDP contribution by £323m
Mike Russell, the Scottish Culture Minister, frequently refers to the importance of the games sector and it will be one where the Creative Industries Partnership will get involved beyond the work Scottish Enterprise already does, it if deems it necessary, which surely it must.  Scotland has watched while France and Canada have invested  in the games industry and stolen a march.
Mike Russell states that full fiscal autonomy is necessary to offer the right package of support.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said to the Herald in its coverage at the weekend:

There is a range of support available for the games industry in Scotland. Of course, our view is that Scotland should have control of key fiscal levers in order to do more. This is a clear example of the need for radical change which at least provides full fiscal autonomy for Scotland. Until we have those powers we’ll continue to make the UK government aware of the implications for the Scottish gaming industry. We’ll also work with the industry to provide evidence of the impact.

If the Conservatives win the next election we can expect progress in this area, if Ed Vaizey has has way.  Perhaps Ireland will wait patiently.  Perhaps its hot air. Perhaps a deal is being done with the games industry while the political points are being made.  Dundee MSPs are seeking action. All the evidence is there.  Its just the action we want now.
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