The First Minister, Alex Salmond, is urging the BBC to reconsider its decision to axe up to 120 posts at BBC Scotland, following the rubber stamping yesterday of plans revealed by the Corporation in October, in the wake of an agreement with the UK government to freeze the TV licence fee at £145.50 a year until 2017.
Responding to a question from Sandra White MSP, at First Minister's Questions today, Salmond said: “It is difficult to reconcile the budget provision for the BBC in Scotland with the obligation it has in terms of not just the generality of programmes but current affairs coverage in a particularly important time in Scotland's history”.
The plans, titled ‘Delivering Quality First‘, identified up to 2,000 job losses throughout the whole of the BBC and, specifically in Scotland, a budget reduction of 16 per cent from the £102 million it spends annually on programmes for Scotland-only audiences (ie excluding additional budget available to make programmes for UK, network transmission).
Among the posts expected to go at BBC Scotland are in editorial, production and back-office.
The story receives front page coverage in today’s Herald newspaper, plus coverage also in the Scottish Daily Express (page five) and the Scottish Daily Mail (page 18).
The plans were rubber stamped by the BBC governing body, the BBC Trust.
Salmond continued: “So I do hope that the BBC will reconsider. I do hope there is a case to go to the BBC Trust, I believe there is. And I hope that some of these damaging cuts can now be reversed.”
A BBC Scotland spokesman said of yesterday's decision: “We indicated when we announced these moves in October last year that the majority of these savings will be sourced from improved productivity and efficiency measures that have least impact on content and services.
“And while we do have to cut back in some areas, BBC Scotland’s confirmation as a main production hub for the whole of the BBC now means that we’ve been able to expand what we spend on TV production in Scotland as a proportion of the overall total network TV spend. That will continue through projects such as the move to Greenock of Waterloo Road, our new drama, Shetland, and a raft of new factual and children’s programmes.
“We do have to take some tough decisions on our spend on services and content for audiences in Scotland but we will safeguard the output which is most valued by our audiences and which best fulfils our role as Scotland's national public service broadcaster.”
Meanwhile, First Minister's Questions also saw Salmond rebuff a call from Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, that his first responsibility to explaining his relationship with media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, is to the Scottish Parliament and not the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, which he is due to give evidence to.
This follows the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, reportedly claiming, the other day, that Westminster has to take precendence over the Inquiry when it comes to MPs, such as Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, explaining himself on media matters.
He also drew to the attention of MSPs a correction in today's Scotsman newspaper following its reporting of the Scottish Government inviting bids to run its media services such as media release distribution and media monitoring.
The correction on page two reads: “On Saturday May 6, The Scotsman carried an article concerning the Scottish Government inviting firms to bid for a contract to provide PR support services under the headline, '”Independence spin doctors”to cost £3,000 a day'. Following a complaint by the Scottish Government we accept that the headline did not accurately reflect the facts and fell short of our usual high standards. We apologise for the error and happy to set the record straight.”