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July 13, 2006updated 22 Nov 2022 8:14pm

Scots journalist slams BBC’s ‘mindless’ cuts

By Press Gazette

One of
BBC Scotland’s top political broadcasters, Ian MacWhirter, has hit out at the “impoverished dependency” affecting the
corporation north of the border.

His comments came just days before BBC Scotland’s
Head of News and Current Affairs, Blair Jenkins (pictured) announced his resignation
yesterday.

MacWhirter has presented the Holyrood Live
television programme for the past seven years and also writes for The Herald
and Sunday Herald.

He left BBC Scotland last week to
concentrate on writing political commentary. In a pungent piece in the Sunday
Herald,
MacWhirter said: “I have great respect for the people who work in BBC
Scotland, but they are ground down by relentless and mindless cuts.

“What BBC Scotland manages to put on the
screen is amazing, given the constraints. But it eats people up, destroys
commitment and drains creativity. It can’t go on.

“The BBC is in serious danger of destroying
what it is trying to protect – the unity of the UK broadcasting culture. It’s
time for Scottish viewers to get up and say they're mad as hell too.”
MacWhirter argued that “the present state of impoverished dependency to which
BBC Scotland is consigned – a kind of cultural house arrest” was the surest way
to generate political resentment.

“The hostility to the perfectly sensible
proposals for a Scottish Six O’Clock News, has, I believe, ensured that within
a few years Holyrood will wrest control over broadcasting from Westminster. Not
because it wants to, but because it has no alternative.”

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MacWhirter accused the
BBC TV Six O’Clock News of misrepresenting the priorities of Scottish public
life.

“What Scotland gets instead of a proper
service are patronising “opt outs” from programmes such as Newsnight and the
Politics Show, as well as more and more local news. Oh, and the programmes I
used to present, such as Holyrood Live.

“However having presented the equivalent
BBC network programmes in Westminster before I returned to Scotland in 1999, I
am acutely aware of how miserable the budgets for Scottish political programmes
are.”

MacWhirter alleged the Scottish programmes
got a tiny fraction of the resources that go into equivalent Westminster
programmes, and when he asked why, he
was often told: “Scotland has a 10th of the population so we get a 10th of the money.”

“This is a grotesque argument”, said
MacWhirter. “If programmes are worth doing, they are worth doing properly.
You don’t give a Scottish hospital patient
one 10th of the care or Scottish schoolchildren one 10th of the books. This
patronising centralism is doing the Scottish National Party’s job for them.”

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

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