THE Scottish home of the hugely popular Outlander TV series is to be transformed into a major international film studio.

Terry Thomson, chairman and owner of the Wardpark Studios in Cumbernauld, has unveiled ambitious plans which would see the complex become the first dedicated film studio in Scotland.

A fourth series of Outlander, a time travelling drama set during the Jacobite risings in Scotland, is currently being made at Wardpark and Mr Thomson is aiming to build on the success that has brought to the studio.

He said: "Wardpark is to expand. We have acquired two additional industrial blocks, immediately adjacent to the site of the planned new sound stage and have an option on a third.

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"The appetite from Outlander for space has made it clear to us that we need to provide extra workshop/office/prop storage for the ‘new build’."

Mr Thomson, whose plans have been backed by £4m from Scottish Enterprise, said he is confident that when a new sound stage - or more - is built, the studio will attract "top end productions".

He said he hopes to have contractors on site in 2018 and that every other week another "realistic enquiry" for TV and movie filming approaches the studios.

Preparations have already been made on the site - on an industrial estate near the M80 - to allow for the expansion.

Further tenders are out for the remaining "enabling" works needed to build further sound stages.

The work means it is likely the studio will be expanded before other plans for major studios on the outskirts of Edinburgh - the Pentland Studios plan in Midlothian, and the Guardhouse plan, near Riccarton in Edinburgh, are developed.

Outlander, based on the successful books by Diana Gabaldon, and starring Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, are currently shooting series four in Scotland, including at locations in Edinburgh.

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Mr Thomson added: "Outlander are filming Series 4 at Wardpark and I am delighted for all that brings to central Scotland and beyond.

"Working around Outlander’s requirements has slowed the process, but has not dented our ambitions for the studios."

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Mr Thomson believes the "global phenomenon" of Outlander and other series, such as the Northern Ireland-made Game of Thrones has "certainly convinced us that there is demand for good quality film studios in Scotland".

He added that he will not know until mid-2018 if Outlander is to return to shooting in Cumbernauld.

He also noted that "sound stages alone are not enough - construction workshops, costume making, make up, hair, prop storage, post- production" all require considerable space.

David Brown, Outlander's producer, said: “The adventures of Outlander could only be told properly in Scotland.

"Production began here in October 2013 and we have just started filming Season 4 - which will shoot into 2018.

"We have worked with Terry Thompson to transform Wardpark Studios in to the fantastic facility it is now and his continued commitment to improve the studio helps us to produce the highest quality television."

David Smith, a director at Scottish Enterprise, said: “There’s good progress being made by Wardpark Studios in preparation for its planned studio expansion and we’re delighted that the management team remains committed to further expansion.

"Wardpark Studios will determine the best timescales for its expansion as it’s a commercial decision for them.”

He added: “It’s fantastic to see Outlander choosing Scotland as its base for a fourth year.

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"Outlander makes a significant contribution to the almost £70 million in film and TV production spend in Scotland last year, as well as employing around 300 crew in Cumbernauld and taking on nearly 100 trainees to develop their industry skills.

"Scotland’s tourism numbers are also being boosted with Outlander showcasing Scotland’s landscapes and tourist attractions, with some attractions reporting a 92 per cent rise in visitors.

"Sony and Outlander’s significant investment is Scotland is testament to the existing world-class facilities at Wardpark Studios, alongside Scotland’s highly skilled crews, talent and the support on offer."