First Minister demands end to remote control of television
'It's just not acceptable that networks which purport to serve the whole of the UK should marginalise the creative community in Scotland' - ALEX SALMOND
ALEX Salmond launched his first major campaign to secure more power for the Scottish Parliament yesterday, unveiling a long-term strategy that he hopes will see control of broadcasting handed over to Holyrood.
The First Minister issued a direct challenge to the London-based networks and the UK government: first, by attacking their failure to nurture Scottish programme-making and then by announcing the creation of an independent commission on Scottish broadcasting.
The commission, chaired by a former BBC Scotland news chief, Blair Jenkins, has been asked to come up with a strategy for broadcasting in Scotland - and to look at whether the Scottish Parliament should be in charge of the industry north of the Border.
Mr Salmond has already begun negotiations with Westminster to secure extra resources and responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament, including a request to take over fishing negotiations for the UK government and for the return of millions of pounds to help pay for elderly care.
But this is the first time that the First Minister has embarked on a deliberate strategy to try to take control of an issue that is clearly reserved to Westminster and that would entail revisions to the Scotland Act and the devolution settlement.
The Scottish Broadcasting Commission is expected to call for greater funding, greater autonomy and more support for output north of the Border. It will be a cross-party body and will speak with an independent and consensual voice. But if, as expected, it does call for more resources and control for Scottish broadcasting, it will put pressure on national network managers and government ministers to cede more control to their Scots counterparts.
Launching the commission, the First Minister was scathing about the attitude of UK managers to Scottish programming, claiming that only 3 per cent of network budgets were spent on Scottish programming.
He quoted a recent Ofcom report that showed Scotland's share of UK spending by the big networks had halved in recent years.
"It's just not acceptable that networks which purport to serve the whole of the UK should marginalise the creative community in Scotland," he said.
And, in a carefully phrased dig at the BBC in London, which was once derided as "hideously white" by the former director general Greg Dyke, Mr Salmond said the network had to beware in case it became "hideously White City" - one of the west London bases of the BBC.
The First Minister also suggested he might divert more government resources into broadcasting.
Asked whether he wanted to follow the Canadian example and invest in broadcasting, he replied: "There are various international lessons to be learned and maybe that is one of them."
Mr Salmond reiterated his desire for a so-called "Scottish Six" - a Scottish-made hour-long television news programme - but stressed he did not want the wider debate about Scottish broadcasting to be obscured by that one issue.
He did point out, though, that STV had increased its audience share significantly when it decided to go it alone on the night of 4 May this year, opting out of the national ITN news to deliver its own coverage of the election result as it was announced.
The First Minister believes broadcasting plays a key role in developing Scotland's sense of identity and self-confidence - which, in turn, he hopes will help fuel his drive towards independence.
He claimed the fragmented arrangements for television and radio north of the Border had undermined national self- confidence. And he added: "I believe we have to transform that main framework for communications to become the truly ambitious and creative country we would all wish to be."
Afterwards Mr Jenkins said his commission would be small, with about six members, and the remit and the membership would be announced in the next few days. He accepted that at least some of the work of the commission would be to look at whether or not control of broadcasting in Scotland should be handed over to the Scottish Parliament.
But Ted Brocklebank, for the Scottish Conservatives, said: "The last thing broadcasting in Scotland needs is a blinkered Braveheart overview. The SNP would be far better off supporting Scottish Conservative policy in seeking to improve the funding and the overall quality of Scottish broadcasting within a UK, European and international context."
TV Scots could use their muscle
RADIO Scotland journalists have the freedom to decide on the running order of news items and which international and local stories are included in bulletins, whereas those on Scottish TV news cannot - a very strange anomaly, writes Charles Fletcher.
This harks back to the dark ages of centralisation in London, when, if a royal figure or a prime minister died, BBC Scotland would immediately hand total control to London.
Indeed, media colleagues from across Europe find it puzzling that Scotland's journalists do not have the last word on the network's output in their own country.
It is good to have a London-led current affairs programme, but in this period of digital television and multi-platforms, people have the opportunity to access the different news formats.
But Scottish journalists have much more power than they might believe.
There is no reason why a producer could not take the initiative and come up with a beefed-up version of Newsnight Scotland with a local mix.
There will be scare stories about a devolved BBC Scotland - the end of EastEnders, for example - but that is rubbish.
Programmers will want to show the best of the whole network, and that will include popular soaps and dramas produced across the UK.
In the end, this is yet another clever way of the current administration highlighting the anomalies of devolution, and it will be interesting to see how the SNP will address this.
• Charles Fletcher, head of media consultancy Caledonia Media.
Salmond has wish list for powers to transfer from Westminster to Scottish Parliament
ALEX Salmond has other targets in his sights as he seeks to wrest more powers from Westminster for the Scottish Parliament.
• Control over oil and gas revenues. This is the big one as far as the SNP is concerned; if the Scottish government gets this, it represents virtual independence. Initial talks have started, but there is no realistic chance of success for the SNP.
• Control over parts of immigration policy. Last week, Fiona Hyslop, the education secretary, made a formal request for an amnesty for asylum seekers resident in Scotland before 2006.
She was knocked back, but this remains a contentious issue for the governments.
• Control over fishing negotiations. This is also an area on which the SNP government has started to negotiate with Westminster.
There has been no success yet, but Scottish ministers remain hopeful of some movement.
• Ability to raise or lower corporation tax. Mr Salmond wants to set lower business taxes in Scotland and believes this could be done within the devolved settlement. He hopes to use the voices of Northern Irish and Welsh ministers to push for a UK-wide devolution of corporation tax power.
• Holding a referendum on independence. Next week Mr Salmond will publish his bill on an independence referendum.
This is reserved to Westminster, but Mr Salmond hopes that, by starting a debate on the issue, he will put pressure on the UK government to allow a referendum at some point in the future.
• Firearms. The SNP wants a ban on air-guns in Scotland, but firearms policy is reserved to Westminster. Scottish ministers will continue arguing for a ban, hoping to take control of at least part of this policy area from the UK government.
• Creating an independent civil service. Mr Salmond wants an independent Scottish civil service, and although work has started on this, it will need Westminster's approval.
• St Andrew's Day as a full public holiday. The designation of full public holidays is reserved, but Mr Salmond believes it could be devolved to Holyrood, giving him the chance to create new public holidays and mark out a different path from England.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
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Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east