ONLY 36% OF VIEWERS WANT A SCOTTISH SIX
Blow to BBC shake-up of evening bulletin as exclusive Mail poll reveals lukewarm support for longer show
JUST over one- third of Scots support the BBC’s plans to introduce an hourl ong Scottish Six news bulletin, an exclusive opinion poll has revealed. The study for the Scottish Daily Mail uncovered strongly-held views on the contentious proposal, which is causing a growing headache for BBC bosses and has triggered a major political row.
The Mail exclusively revealed last week how the decades-old idea of a Scottish Six had been revived, and it was confirmed yesterday that three off-air pilot programmes will get the go-ahead.
SNP politicians are desperate for the bulletins to become a permanent fixture
in the TV listings, as they continue to blame the BBC for their defeat in the 2014 independence referendum.
But the survey results will stun the Nationalists, as only 53 per cent of their own voters back a Scottish Six.
The independent poll of more than 1,000 Scots, carried out by British Polling Council member Survation, found that 17.3 per cent are ‘strongly opposed’ to the idea, with another 15.4 per cent ‘somewhat opposed’ – a total of 32.7 per cent.
At the other end of scale, 16.3 per cent ‘strongly support’ it and 20 per cent ‘ somewhat support’ it. That leaves a considerable number of adults who are neither for nor against the bulletin – 26.5 per cent – and 4.6 per cent who said they ‘don’t know’.
Fourteen per cent said they would be more likely to trust the BBC and 17 per cent said they would be less likely, while opposition is strongest among Tory voters (63 per cent), followed by Labour (45 per cent) and the SNP (16 per cent).
Scottish Tory MSP Liz Smith said: ‘It is essential that full and transparent consultation is undertaken with staff, with viewers and with key stake- holders. This poll suggests there are very mixed views, some clearly against as the petition has shown, and some clearly in favour.
‘Any decision must be backed up by the facts and these must be presented in a way which is free of all party political prejudice.’
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: ‘There must be full consultation with staff and more importantly the general public, as currently focus groups show a clear desire for a UK perspective on UK and international stories.
‘Any changes to BBC news coverage must be made for the right reasons and quality must al ways be maintained.’
BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall was hoping to make a formal announcement about the Scottish Six within weeks, according to insiders, but it is understood the broadcaster now wants to do more work behind the scenes. There was a hostile reaction in focus groups, and a petition opposing the plan already has more than 11,500 signatures.
However, the bulletins are still likely to get the go-ahead and are set to be introduced on TV screens in 2017. Some BBC journalists were furious after first learning about the proposals in the Mail, and there was an emergency meeting in the corporation’s Scottish HQ in Glasgow last week. But it is understood that members of the National Union of Journalists there yesterday voted to support three pilot shows.
According to senior insiders, the hour- l ong programme will cover national and international news. Around 60 staff based in Glasgow will work on the programme, with a budget of £5million.
Various options for the format are being discussed. One involves an entire show run, edited and anchored from Glasgow, while another alternative would see a Scottish presenter accompanied by a London-based journalist fronting a round-up of national and international news.
Ex-First Minister Alex Salmond has been at the forefront of the campaign to seize more control of the BBC.
Writing in a regional newspaper yesterday, he said: ‘The concept of a 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 lens.’
He added: ‘In broadcasting technology terms, the case is now unanswerable.’
The BBC insists no final decision has been made.
‘Free of all party political prejudice’
Call for change: Alex Salmond