MSPs unite in calling for rethink over demise of BBC’s Beechgrove Potting Shed

Presenters of the Potting Shed. Picture: BBC Scotland
Presenters of the Potting Shed. Picture: BBC Scotland
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SCOTTISH politicians joined forces yesterday to call on the BBC to rethink the “bizarre” axing of Scotland’s only radio gardening programme.

MSPs united in condemning the move to give Radio Scotland favourite, The Beechgrove Potting Shed, the chop in the latest round of funding cuts.

The politicians urged listeners to mount a campaign in their thousands – something which saved the BBC radio station 6Music after it was proposed for closure in 2010.

And David Mitchell, curator of projects at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, said that the decision to axe the show could not have come at a worse time. “There has never been a greater need for a gardening programme in Scotland than there is now,” he said.

“It’s not just about how to grow plants and it’s not just for gardeners. Young people want to know how to grow food, how to recycle, how to engage with the environment. Gardening is also good therapy for ex-servicemen.

Green MSP for Lothian Alison Johnston said that with a boom in allotments, it was bizarre to see Radio Scotland bosses cutting the programme in a seemingly completely random decision.

“Can you imagine the reaction if Radio 4 said it was axing Gardeners’ Question Time? There’d be a riot,” she said.

“I would urge BBC bosses to start involving listeners in their decision-making.”

Encouraging people to complain, she added: “I’d be very surprised, as more people learn about the loss of yet another popular programme, if they didn’t call upon the BBC to revisit this decision.”

Kenneth Gibson, SNP MSP for Cunninghame North, branded the move, which is due to take effect at the end of the year, a “backward step.”

He said: “This is a deeply disappointing decision which I urge the BBC to reconsider. It will come as a bolt from the blue and a great disappointment to loyal listeners.

“From allotments to green gyms to home gardening, programmes like the Potting Shed encourage people to follow this healthy, productive and often socially valuable pursuit.”

Margaret McDougall, Labour MSP for the West of Scotland, said the show was an “institution” loved by a wide audience, “not just gardeners.”

She went on: “I sincerely hope the BBC will reconsider this decision, especially when there are more people than ever growing their own vegetables because of the economic situation.

“They rely on programmes like this to give them useful tips. Increasingly, people are turning to allotments to ‘grow their own’ and for bio-diversity reasons, so much so that in some areas there are waiting lists for allotments.”

Veteran broadcaster Jim McColl had already launched a furious attack, publicised in yesterday’s Scotsman, after BBC Scotland announced that his show was being decommissioned after more than two decades.

The 77-year-old accused the corporation of getting its priorities wrong by dedicating “obscene” amounts of airtime to football.

A spokesman for BBC Scotland last night said only one listener had called to complain.

“Decommissioning happens as part of the normal course of the broadcasting business,” he said. It was part of an overall review to make efficiency savings across the board “as we try to come to terms with the licence-fee agreement”.