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Scottish Film Culture Before 1938

The First Films of Scotland Committee

Scottish Film Culture Between the Committees

The Second Films of Scotland Committee


Distribution & Exhibition


Aberdeen, by Seaside and Deeside
Aberdeen, by Seaside and Deeside (1971), sponsored by the Corporation of the City of Aberdeen


The Second Films of Scotland Committee

The Second Films of Scotland Committee, set up by the Secretary of State for Scotland acting through the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) began active operations in February 1955, with the appointment of a director, Forsyth Hardy, the first film critic of The Scotsman and an associate of Grierson (who also accepted an invitation to join the Committee) (Grant, 1964, October 29, p. 1). Chairman of the Committee was Sir Alexander B. King, an independent cinema exhibitor. Other members of the Committee, all of whom acted in a voluntary capacity, were drawn from local and national public administration, industry, tourism, and later the Arts. Not surprisingly, the professional membership of the Committee is reflected in the subject matter of the films themselves. In an early memorandum the purposes for which the Committee had been established are laid out:

a. To promote, stimulate and encourage the production of Scottish films of national interest.

b. To administer funds for the production and promotion of such films.

c. To act as an Advisory Centre for the production and circulation of films of/or concerning Scotland.

d. To commission the production of films for any form of circulation and to make arrangements for their display in public. (To educate people at home and abroad in regard to Scotland.) (Films of Scotland, 1955)


Lothian Landscape Lothian Landscape (1974) sponsored by the County Council of East Lothian and the Town Councils of Dunbar, East Linton, Haddington, North Berwick and Prestonpans.




A Town Called Ayr
A traditional Burns Supper in A Town Called Ayr (1975), sponsored by the Royal Burgh of Ayr.




Three Scottish Painters (1963) sponsored by the Scottish Committee of the Arts Council and the British Council

Sponsored Film

Again, apart from the 'gift' of 10,000 from the Minister of State at the Scottish Office, the Committee financed production by attracting sponsors from industry, local authorities, and national organisations to finance individual films. By 1960, twenty films had been completed and according to a press release they represented 'a total expenditure of approximately 90,000' (Films of Scotland, 1960, February, 19, p. 1). Forsyth Hardy, interviewed in 1982 by John Caughie and Colin McArthur (1982), claims that the sponsor's influence on the representation of Scotland in the films was minimal compared to that of the filmmakers and the Committee itself:

"We believed that if we could get the commissions to make films on such subjects as shipbuilding or tweed or carpet-making or agriculture and so on, we could then give the films a bigger horizon or wider sweep, a deeper significance. If we could bring these qualities to the films, then we would be satisfying our own requirement, which was to project the life and character of Scotland, although we had to accept that we were making a film about an industry or an activity or something else like that. We had therefore to satisfy the sponsor as well as do our own thing. But always there was that narrow way of proceeding, of keeping the balance between what you call the national purpose and the satisfaction of the producer." (Hardy qtd. in Caughie & McArthur, p. 90)

The documentaries were therefore produced within a double constraint; the interests of the sponsors, who would be unlikely to brook any criticism of their work in the documentaries they were funding, and the institutional aims of the Committee itself, particularly its 'national purpose'. There is often a straightforward correlation between sponsoring body and the subject of the documentary they sponsor. For instance, William Grant & Sons financed The Water of Life (1972), a history of their Glenfiddich distillery, while the distillers Long John financed, The Spirit of Scotland, a documentary on whisky distilling at Laphroaig and Tormore; Gardens by the Sea (1972), an account of the sub-tropical gardens on the west coast of Scotland was financed by the Scottish Tourist Board and the National Trust for Scotland; the County Council of Renfrew financed A Place in the Country (1972), an informational film on Renfrew Country Park; the Department of Environmental Improvement and the City of Glasgow District Council financed Places or People: Environmental Improvement in Glasgow (1975); the travelogues Aberdeen - By Seaside and Deeside (1971), A Town Called Ayr (1975), and Highland Capital (1968) were financed by the Corporation of City of Aberdeen, the Royal Burgh of Ayr, and the Inverness and Loch Ness Tourist Association respectively; finally, the Scottish Arts Council financed Macintosh (1968), a documentary on the Glaswegian architect and designer, and Norman MacCaig: A Man in my Position (1977); with the British Council they financed Three Scottish Painters (1963). As the Committee (1962, February) put it: 'Films have been separately financed by the interest being served - industry, local authority or national body' (p. 1). In other words, in the majority of cases these documentaries are little more than promotional films or extended advertisements.

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Author: Richard Butt Images are drawn from the SCRAN database.