Actors call for Scottish broadcaster and the BBC

SCOTLAND should have its own national TV and radio broadcaster whatever the outcome of the independence referendum, the acting union Equity will tell MSPs.

A Scottish broadcaster would lead to more programmes like Rab C Nesbitt, Alex Johnstone fears. Picture: Alan Ledgerwood

Equity backs the launch of a specialised Scottish public service broadcaster to improve the choice and quality of programmes north of the Border.

The SNP government plans to launch a Scottish Broadcasting Service (SBS) in the event of a Yes vote that would be founded on the assets of the BBC, but would buy in popular shows from the UK broadcaster such as Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing.

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However, Equity calls for the BBC to remain in an independent Scotland, although it backs a shake-up of the broadcaster, which it accuses of being “too London-centric”.

The acting union states that it “supports calls for a national broadcaster for Scotland” alongside the BBC, with existing broadcasters encouraged to bid to operate it through a system of “open competition”.

Holyrood’s culture committee will today probe the radical proposals from Equity, which stated a shake-up of broadcasting was needed in Scotland “irrespective of the result” of the referendum.

SNP MSP David Torrance welcomed Equity’s backing for a Scottish broadcaster, which he claimed would allow programme makers to produce more programmes about Scotland’s wildlife in the style of those fronted by veteran naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

Mr Torrance said: “It’s something I’d welcome and we could do much more to make programmes about the wildlife here in Scotland in the style of David Attenborough’s programmes.”

However, Tory MSP Alex Johnstone criticised the proposals and suggested they would lead to more shows like the situation comedy Rab C Nesbitt and the Scotland-set daytime soap opera Take The High Road, which he suggested were largely for “Scottish consumption” only.

He said: “The BBC already operating in Scotland is one of the benefits of being part of the UK and we have to be careful we don’t do anything that means more costs for the taxpayer.

“If the object of this exercise is to create more programme like Take the High Road and Rab C Nesbitt then that’s an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money.”

The acting union called on the BBC to devote a bigger share of its broadcasting resources north of the Border and said it should be “more accountable to the people of Scotland”.

Equity says: “The balance of BBC expenditure is unfair. The BBC should continue to operate in Scotland after the referendum but it should adopt a policy of fairer production spend – proportionate to population.”

The union’s submission to MSPs states that a change in the BBC’s approach is needed to support quality programme making in Scotland and called for one of the BBC TV channels to be based north of the Border.

A statement said: “It is vital to Scotland’s cultural landscape that investment in quality drama is not an afterthought.

“Equity has long supported the idea that at least one of the BBC’s television channels and one of its radio networks should be based in Scotland.”

Lorne Boswell, Scottish Secretary of Equity, will give evidence to MSPs today as part of an inquiry by Holyrood’s culture committee on “Scotland’s educational and cultural future”.

Equity’s report to MSPs called on the Scottish Government to bring forward legislation for a new public service broadcaster.

The group said: “Scotland should have a national broadcaster and that it should be created by open competition.

“Once this is done, we call on the present and future Scottish governments to invite applications for the role of National Broadcaster and to make the appointment through an open competition for a specific period of time.”

A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC is committed to 50 per cent of network TV programming spend coming from outside London and 17 per cent from the nations by 2016. In addition to this the BBC is extensively covering the Commonwealth Games and the upcoming referendum for Scottish independence.”