POLICE drama Taggart, part of Scotland's cultural fabric for nearly three decades, has been dropped by ITV.
The network announced its decision after the 27th series attracted only 2.6 million viewers.
STV, which makes the programme, said it was in talks with other broadcasters to try to save the Glasgow-based show.
While Taggart remains popular in Scotland, the viewing figures for the last series compared to more than ten million across the UK for the last episode of ITV period drama Downton Abbey.
An ITV spokesman said: "We have decided not to commission any further series of Taggart for the ITV network.
"Since it was first broadcast in 1983, Taggart has been one of ITV's most enduring dramas but, reflecting the demands of our audience and as part of the ongoing creative renewal of the ITV1 schedule, our priority is to invest in new and original drama."
ITV1 broadcast five out of the top ten new dramas on any channel last year, he said.
New drama series premiering on ITV1 over 2011 include Marchlands, Vera, Kidnap and Ransom, Monroe, Injustice, Scott and Bailey, The Jury and DCI Banks, the latter starring Stephen Tompkinson as Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks.
ITV has delayed recommissioning Taggart in the past and STV said it was considering other options to keep it alive.
An STV spokesman said: "STV is exploring a range of options for Taggart with a number of broadcasters. We are committed to the brand and recognise the continuing popularity of this long-running series."
STV and ITV recently settled legal disputes over programming and new media rights, agreeing a "collaborative relationship" for the future after STV paid 18 million to the UK broadcaster.
The dispute had resulted in STV declining to carry major ITV shows, including Downton Abbey. But both sides insist the Taggart move was a "creative decision" not tied to the dispute.
Eponymous detective DCI Jim Taggart was played by Mark McManus. After his death in 1994, production chiefs decided to continue the franchise. Latterly, DCI Matt Burke has been played by Alex Norton, with Blythe Duff as DI Jackie Reid and John Michie as DI Robbie Ross.
Duff, a popular figure on stage and screen, was nominated this week as best female actor in the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland for her role in Good with People, a new play by David Harrower. John Michie has recently joined the cast of Coronation Street.
The last series of Taggart was shown in Scotland in late 2010, and in the rest of the UK early this year.
The series narrowly escaped the axe two years ago, after widespread speculation it would go the way of other long-running police dramas, such as The Bill.The show was saved, but for the first time it was co-produced by STV with ITV, rather than being commissioned by ITV.
Leading Scottish actors have appeared in the show over the years, and it has been seen as a vital source of steady work for rising stars and a cash generator for STV.
A spokesman for the show's distributor, DRG, said: "Taggart is a hugely popular series internationally. For example, it is aired across three different TV channels in Australia and the most recent seasons have achieved their best reception yet.
"It's our shared ambition to return Taggart to UK screens and we can confirm we're currently working closely with STV as we explore options to achieve this."
TAGGART launched with its Scottish Bafta-winning pilot episode, Killer, in 1983. Created and often written by Glenn Chandler, and set in Strathclyde Police's Maryhill CID, the drama originally centred on DCI Jim Taggart, played by Mark McManus. It ran to a worldwide franchise with more than 100 episodes.
McManus died in the middle of filming in 1994, but Alex Norton's DCI Matt Burke has been increasingly seen as a worthy successor in solving baffling and gruesome Glasgow crimes.
Two years ago, Taggart could still draw impressive ITV audiences, with one episode gaining 4.4 million viewers, nearly 20 per cent of the prime-time audience. But in January this year, only 2.6 million UK viewers tuned into a new episode.