A Little History Of The ‘Scottish Six’

To echo a recent comment piece in The National, independence supporters who are against a ‘Scottish Six’ programme, might want to take a look at who is/ was against it, and why.

The reasons given against a ‘Scottish Six’ news show by independence supporters are often that BBC Scotland is incompetent and/or biased and would make a mess of the whole thing.

Angel TonyThe reasons given against a ‘Scottish Six’ news show by unionists are usually that it would reduce quality or would increase costs (whether or not the current BBC News output is either quality or value for money is also worthy of scrutiny).

However, it seems that those latter objections, when this debate came round a few years ago, may well have been put forward for motives that were less than transparent…

Let’s take a look at this story in the Guardian from 2002

The Scottish National Party is heading for a showdown with the BBC’s director general, Greg Dyke, after it emerged Tony Blair blocked the corporation developing a “Scottish Six” evening news bulletin in 1998.

But it didn’t start with the bLIAR…

The Blair revelations were made in an interview given by the former director general, John Birt, who said he asked the prime minister to help undermine moves to abolish UK-wide BBC news bulletins.

Lord Birt believed at the time that a Scottish Six O’Clock News would have been “totemic” of the break-up of the UK, only a year after Scotland had voted for devolution.

I argued that we should follow constitutional change; it was not our role to lead it. Mr Blair was quick, as ever, to grasp the case. ‘Let’s fight,’ he said,” Lord Birt revealed in an interview with the Sunday Herald.

The underlined above might also give you a line on the mentality of some of the higher echelons of the BBC when the referendum came around.

Of course, as ever, Blair went to his ‘go to’ man, who also happens to be everyone else’s ‘go away’ man…

It is alleged that Mr Blair enlisted the help of Peter Mandelson, then minister without portfolio, to prevent the proposal going through, even though it had the backing of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland and BBC Scotland management.

The last line of the Guardian article is also interesting…

The BBC is committed to reviewing its Scottish programming after the parliamentary elections next May.

That review finished with not much changing. It would be an opportunity missed if that were to happen again.

My own view is that a ‘Scottish Six’ can only be an improvement on what we get now. If you are not convinced of that then at least take a look at who is against it (and why), and then think again about whether you want to support it.



  1. I do support a Scottish six but I also think the BBC will make a hash of it. My fear is that it will then be shelved. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

  2. The BBC could be entrusted with broadcasting a Scottish Six on BBC1, but such a programme might more reliably be produced by an independent producer. I doubt whether the BBC is trustworthy enough to produce and broadcast such a programme effectively or willingly.

    1. Yes, Iain, doesn’t ITN make the excellent Channel 4 News? Their journalist/presenters are all top notch, mind. If Jackie Bird et al haven’t been able to inject some quality in to BBC Scotland’s news reporting and analysis up to now, what miracle is going to enable them in the future?

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