THE BLOG
09/10/2013 11:11 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Grand Theft Auto (?)

2013-10-07-ScreenShot20131007at21.02.00.png

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) is not an obviously Scottish piece of culture. Set in Los Santos, a fictionalised Los Angeles, it has very little in common with the land of Robert Burns. For a start, it very rarely rains in Los Santos. Yet the GTA franchise, which has its roots in the Scottish city of Dundee, has subtley alluded to its orgins over the years. This has ranged from 'CUJMY' number plates and the 'Celtica Hotel', to guest appearances by Frankie Boyle and a fictionalised stock exchange called the 'BAWSAQ'. (Not everyone is laughing though, especially in the small Scottish town of Hawick)

The franchise, which started in 1997, is famously controversial. But it'd be wrong to dismiss this as yet another violent video game, played solely by spotty teenagers. It's a game of complex characters, carefully crafted plot lines and razor sharp dialogue. GTA V is a huge sprawling satirical take on modern America. For Brian Baglow, who worked on the first game and is now head of the Scottish Games Network, the game is a black mirror against modern society.

GTA is also a huge seller. It made over $1 billion in just three days of its release - quicker than any other form of entertainment has ever managed to make a billion.

It's an astonishing feat, for a game which started out life in the city famous for Jam, Jute and Journalism. Dundee should probably think about adding virtual car jacking to that list. Rockstar North, which now produces the game in Edinburgh, is currently one of the UK's largest game developers, employing over 300 people. Scotland has become the biggest hub for game developers in Britain and among the biggest in Europe, with around 80 developers huddled around Dundee.

So why the silence from Scottish politicians, and especially Alex Salmond, who is usually so vocal about Scotland's talents? It's hardly surprising in some respects - GTA is a game littered with corrupt officials and dodgy dealing, not to mention gratuitous amounts of drugs, sex and violence. Hardly an election winner...

Yet promoting the games industry in Scotland, should become more of a priority after the success of GTA. In April 2013 the UK government took the lead by unveiling tax incentives for video games, animation and high-end television. The SNP should be much more vocal about pursuing this path, especially considering how Scotland continues to be one of the most attractive UK destinations to invest in. An Ernst and Young report from June 2013 rubbished the idea that talk of devolution or independence will scare off business investment. In 2012 Scotland enjoyed its highest level of foreign investment for 15 years; the 76 projects started in 2012 were a 49 percent increase on the 2011 figures. Highlighting the success of Scotland's games industry should surely be central to any pitch about the country's ability to perform globally.

Not only would promoting Scotland as the land which gave birth to the dark humour of GTA help attract foreign investment, it would also appeal to a politically disengaged younger audience at home. The game has tremendous cultural significance to a younger generation. This generation, are the same cohort the SNP are trying to appeal to in the 2014 referendum, as they lower the voting age to 16. However controversial GTA is, it is an ideal demonstration of the value of Scottish culture and creativity on a global stage.