Belfast Telegraph

Game of Thrones chose Northern Ireland over Scotland and it still hurts

Westeros location in NI has helped secure £110.7m investment return for the region over last six years

By Joanne Sweeney

Game of Thrones producers choose Northern Ireland over Scotland to film the award-winning show - and the country's film and television production industry is still smarting over it.

The hit show based on George R Martin's best-selling books has not only put Northern Ireland on the international film production map but also provided a huge boost to the tourism industry.

The depth of Scotland's pain of losing out as a location to the world's top television series has been revealed in an Economy Committee hearing in Holyrood.

Northern Ireland has provided locations for the fictional land of Westeros in the drama over the last six years.

The "aggression" and incentives offered by Northern Ireland Screen to secure Game of Thrones to go for Northern Ireland as a main location was described as having made the difference.

The hit series was attracted to Northern Ireland by the package of incentive finance, UK tax relief, studio facilities, crew and locations.

Northern Ireland was described as having "stolen a march" over Scotland in attracting the show to film over the last six years, according to Drew McFarlane of Equity Scotland.

Mr McFarland told the hearing: "It seems to me that what we don't have in Scotland, which we do in Northern Ireland, is one lead body who is fairly aggressive, out there trying to work on behalf of the film and television industry, and that's Northern Ireland Screen.

"A lot of people outside of Northern Ireland would see it as a mickey mouse organisation, because it doesn't have a huge budget, yet it seems to be a great driver and that is what we have lost with the loss of Scottish Screen and the way it has been metamorphosed into Creative Scotland."

He added that Scotland's infrastructure was "sadly lacking" compared to Northern Ireland.

The committee heard that Glasgow had been tipped to become the second centre of production outside London for the show but it had slipped to fourth or fifth place due to inaction.

However, Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop later tolds MSPs that she supported the idea of setting up a Scottish film studio.

The pain of losing out to Northern Ireland has been further exacerbated as a written submission from Film Edinburgh on behalf of the Scottish locations network revealed that several Scottish members of the crew had since moved to Northern Ireland to work on the show.

The submission said that Game of Thrones producers received an investment of £12.45m from Northern Ireland Screen and provided a return on investment to the Northern Ireland economy of £110.7m including crew salaries, accommodation and catering, facilities fees and location fees.

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