A controversial referendum, expected to test the extent of Scotland’s desire for national independence, could transform the games industry across the country, a trade association has claimed.
Richard Wilson, the CEO of games industry group Tiga, told Develop that the proposed public vote “could absolutely reshape games industry policy across Scotland”.
If Scotland gains independence, or enhances its devolution rights, the nation could be given unprecedented control over its own economy.
Though Scotland is devolved, the Treasury in Whitehall solely determines economic policy across the UK. That means that numerous policies, such as games tax breaks, are blocked in London despite Scottish ministers appearing to back the proposal.
“There is no doubt that the Scottish government is supportive of the games development sector. Indeed, both the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Labour Party back games tax relief,” Wilson said.
“Scotland has a chance to show decisive leadership to support the sector and show up Westminster’s dilatory attitude."
The SNP won a landslide victory at the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary election and became the national’s first party to form a majority government since 1999.
Triumph for the party was so comprehensive that it immediately sparked suggestions that Scotland could break from UK rule.
The Labour Party, which previously enjoyed an electoral stronghold across Scotland, has lost crucial votes in the past two years.
Now the SNP has embarked on what is thought to be its biggest political campaign in Scottish history, launching a so-called “roadmap to independence” backed by a £1 million referendum war-chest.
The content of the proposed referendum ballot paper has become a topic of speculation, with suggestions that the electorate will be asked whether they want full independence or increased devolved powers.
"Independence or greater autonomy for Scotland is clearly ultimately a matter for the Scottish electorate,” Wilson said.
Earlier today, Tiga published a proposal to establish a Creative Content Fund (CCF) in Scotland to help studios across the sector.
Under the proposal, the CCF would provide funding of up to £100,000 to game developers and operate on a commercial basis.
Tiga believes Britain’s games industry is losing ground after the UK coalition government failed to introduce games tax relief policies, with investment and jobs allegedly going overseas.
"The Westminster coalition government is failing to invest in the Scottish and UK game development sector,” Wilson said.
No date has been set on the SNP's referendum.
Andy Payne, chairman of trade group UKIE said: “Scotland is extremely important to the UK video games industry, home to excellent academic institutions and a host of development studios globally renowned for the IP they produce. We have already seen other territories – most recently Ireland – put their weight behind the video games industry and pursue specific policies to support talent and attract investment. UKIE continues to push the Government to adopt a similar approach for the UK video games industry, and this includes Scotland.
“UKIE continues to expand its presence and activity in Scotland, and we are looking for ways to capitalise on the manoeuvrability devolution already offers, for example in terms of education provision. Should Scotland become fully independent, we might anticipate more targeted measures for the video games industry, something the current UK Government would need to be mindful of.”