Scottish Six could restore BBC’s hopelessly compromised reputation

For the third time in recent years the possibility of a BBC Six o’clock news, properly edited and run from Scotland, has become itself headline news.

Let us hope it is third time lucky. The last few years have not been happy ones for the reputation of the BBC in Scotland. Our national broadcaster has lost the confidence of a significant part of the Scottish population.

In the independence referendum, the greatest broadcasting reputation in the world was hopelessly compromised.

But the BBC in Scotland is not just guilty of sustained bias against the national cause. More generally, the news-gathering ability of the organisation here has been hollowed out, its staff morale devastated by repeated rounds of cuts under the departed head of news, John Boothman, and its somnolent director, Ken MacQuarrie.

It may seem strange that, given I hold these views, I still back the idea that this time the concept of a Scottish Six shouldn’t end up on the cutting room floor. After all, would it not be those same journalists with that same track record who would be in charge of the new programme?

The answer is that I clearly have more faith in the ability of people, if properly resourced, to rise to the occasion than do their own employers in the higher echelons of the BBC.

The concept of Scottish Six should not be merely an enlarged version of the deeply depressing Reporting Scotland. It is not an attempt to “put a kilt on” London and international news. What it should be is a complete news programme produced from Scotland, which looks at local, national, UK and European and international news through a Scottish lense.

Now we no longer have the lumpen mass of the parliamentary Scottish Labour Party as an obstacles to progress the concept has been revived and proposed very skilfully by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop. In broadcasting technology terms, the case is now unanswerable.

Modern digital presentation makes it possible to edit the very best of quality news from wherever it comes from, but offering that crucial Scottish perspective.

It will create jobs and opportunity for journalists to pursue serious programming on current affairs. It will become the anchor of television journalism from Scotland.

If it goes ahead, it will dwarf the viewing figures for the London Six, which will still be available through the digital platforms.

However, it has to be done properly and not on the cheap. It should not be operated from a split site of Scotland and London, as the BBC top brass, rather absurdly, favour at present. It has to be done in the spirit that if you offer people the ability to make a serious programme, they will respond as serious journalists.

So could it be third time lucky. If so it could potentially mark the start of the march back to a new relationship between the BBC and much of the Scottish people.

Or, on the other hand, a very positive idea could be sabotaged yet again.


Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus iawn! I celebrated St David's Day down in Westminster, and was joined by The Guardian's joint political editors, Anushka Asthana and Heather Stewart. 


I led Britain's conversation once again, with a little help from LBC co-host Ian Dale too. This week, we discussed, among other things, The Donald's Super Tuesday win and what could come next in the race to the White House. Later, I went to support SNP's calls for fairer tax deals for Malawi. 


I headed back up to Edinburgh, and on to to Alison Dickie's Edinburgh Central Adoption Night. I'm sure Alison will be raring to get her campaign started! 


In Irvine today to help the good Dr, and now MP Philippa Whitford open her new office. Following that, I popped up to Dunblane to speak at the Action Man Keith Brown MSP's Adoption Night. 


Watched the dynamic-duo that is the Murray brothers take on Japan in the Davis Cup. They don't call Andy 'the man of steel' for nothing, and he and Jamie put on a superb show of Scottish tennis skill to pull of a great win.  


Earlier in the week, I spoke to The House Magazine about the SNP's discussions with Iran's stance towards capital punishment, a massive step towards what would be an extremely positive result for international relations with Iran.