Claims that Doctor Who may not be aired in an independent Scotland have been dismissed as “off the planet” by a former BBC chief.
Pro-independence campaigner Blair Jenkins - who previously held senior roles at STV and BBC Scotland and is now the chief executive of Yes Scotland - issued a 100% “guarantee” that the popular sci-fi show and other TV favourites such as Strictly Come Dancing would continue to be broadcast in Scotland under independence.
Doctor Who is currently shown in dozens of countries all around the world, making suggestions that Scotland could be excluded after a Yes vote “more incredible than some of Doctor Who’s most fantastic plots”, he said.
Mr Jenkins spoke after the Scottish Conservatives and the Scotland Office suggested that independence could have consequences for TV services north of the border.
The Tories said SNP plans to set up a new broadcaster under independence would lead to the loss of popular TV programmes or to viewers forking out more for their favourite dramas.
Party leader Ruth Davidson, who worked for the BBC for a number of years before entering Holyrood, said: “We pay around £300 million towards the licence fee but, by clubbing together with the rest of the UK, we get well more than £3 billion worth of programming.
“Running a new Scottish broadcaster means something has to give.
“Either, it will mean losing programmes or paying more from amazing coverage of things like the Olympics, to great channels like CBeebies and services like the iPlayer. Why pay more for what we already enjoy?”
Ms Davidson was quoted in today’s Scottish Sun, saying: “The SNP simply cannot guarantee that we’d still get Dr Who after independence.”
A Scotland Office spokesman said yesterday: “Contrary to what the Scottish Government assert, a vote to leave the UK is a vote to leave its institutions, including the BBC.”
They were responding to claims from Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop that viewers will be able to watch the same TV programmes they currently enjoy after independence without having to pay a higher licence fee.
Mr Jenkins, a former director of broadcasting at Scottish Television and former head of news and current affairs at both STV and BBC Scotland, accused Ms Davidson and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael of plumbing “new depths of scare-mongering”.
Yes Scotland said this Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who, marking the 50th anniversary of the series, will be broadcast in 75 countries across the world.
“Even by Project Fear’s own standards, this scare story is in the stratosphere for sheer daftness,” Mr Jenkins said.
“Ruth Davidson and Alistair Carmichael are living in their own fantasy world with ridiculous claims like these.
“What they and other naysayers are fond of telling everybody is that nothing can be guaranteed in an independent Scotland. Well, I can guarantee 100% that after a Yes vote, Doctor Who, Strictly and every other popular BBC show currently broadcast in Scotland will still be available to viewers here.
“The reality is that Doctor Who is currently shown in scores of countries around the world, from Angola and Australia to Uruguay and Venezuela. The notion that Scotland would somehow uniquely be excluded is more incredible than some of Doctor Who’s most fantastic plots.”
He added: “That the No campaign is using Doctor Who to try to further their campaign of fear and negativity is laughable. If they are prepared to offer this kind of nonsense, why should we believe anything else they say?”