“In the face of stiff global competition, the best plan would be one that seized the advantages Scotland’s video games industry gets from the social and economic connections of the United Kingdom.” – report by Gordon Brown’s think-tank, Our Scottish Future, May 2022.


Successive Westminster governments have been slow to help the Scottish video games industry. In his latest Budget, Chancellor Sunak refused to increase tax relief for games developers despite strong industry pleas.


Our Scottish Future (OSF) is a think-tank come advocacy organisation for the Union, set up in 2019 by former prime minister Gordon Brown. A key figure at OSF is Eddie Barnes, the former head of communications for the Scottish Conservatives. OSF runs a website claiming to offer “diverse views” on Scottish policy issues. This diversity includes the principal of a private school and a professor at the US Army War College, but no supporters of Scottish independence.

OSF publishes periodic reports on various aspects of economic, social and health policy in Scotland, and is largely critical of the Scottish Government. These included a controversial paper suggesting the Covid detection rate in Scotland was the poorest in the UK. The Scottish Government rejected this claim as misleading, saying that it found and isolated more contacts proportionately than the other UK nations.


OSF has just published a policy paper on the future of the video games industry in Scotland, written by Ruairidh Macintosh, a London-based consultant who works for the Brunswick Group. Traditionally, Scotland has a strong foothold in developing video games, including the iconic Grand Theft Auto series. However, Macintosh argues that the industry is now dominated by large, global games developers who can draw on vast international finance and skills resources.

He suggests that Scotland is being eclipsed as a location for developing the next generation of video games and that the way to overcome the relative isolation of the local industry is by creating a UK-wide network that brings together the best of industry talent and resources: “From finance, skills, and connections with England’s own world-class games industry as well as other leading high-tech creative industries such as film and TV, the UK offers opportunities to make the most of Scottish talent and creativity”.

Macintosh thinks that the historically successful games industry clusters in Edinburgh and Dundee are too small and inadequately financed to compete globally and that by “combining Scottish imagination with the ideas, resources and connections of the UK, we have the best chance to stay competitive in the long-term”.


The problem inherent in Macintosh’s thesis is that the video games industry at a UK level has been beset by constant inattention and obstruction by successive Westminster governments. For instance, it was not until 2012 that a UK Chancellor offered the industry tax relief for developers, and two years after that before a scheme was implemented. Other countries, notably Canada, had offered such tax incentives in order to lure talented developers and foreign investment. As a result, Canada now employs more people in the video games industry than the UK. However, in the recent Queen’s Speech, Chancellor Sunak pointedly ignored calls by the video industry in the UK to raise the rate of tax relief to 32%.

Where Macintosh is correct is to say that the video games industry is now globally integrated in development, production and merchandising of new products. Multi-platform streaming has largely replaced the purchase of cassettes and bespoke consoles. The huge cost of developing new games has forced the industry to seek multiple streams of income through merchandising and film and TV ties. In this context, there is perhaps more to be gained by Scottish video games clusters seeking partnerships globally rather than solely within the UK.

There are currently around 147 active gaming companies in Scotland employing some 2269 people. In Finland, by comparison, there are more than 200 development studios employing around 3600 people. This suggests that while the industry in Scotland has grown considerably in the past two years, it has not yet tapped its full economic potential. Why not, for instance, seek partnerships with the video games industry in Finland? Or Canada, given the strong cultural links with Scotland?

Scotland is the fourth largest games cluster in the UK, by employment, after London, the South East of England and the North West. This might suggest that creating a cross-UK strategic alliance might disadvantage Scotland, with London and the south tending to dominate as always. It is tempting to think that the OSF paper is more Unionist wishful thinking than good business sense.


This London-based consultant is correct to say Scottish games companies need international partners. But he is wrong to think they will be found in the UK.