BBC managers have again denied ageism after Anne Mackenzie was dropped as a presenter of Newsnight Scotland.
The 47-year-old has been one of the regular anchors of the programme in the eight years since devolution. Her place has been filled by rising political journalist Glenn Campbell, 30.
But both Mackenzie and a BBC Scotland spokesman have denied ageism was behind the move. Cash cuts at the BBC across the UK saw unions go into talks this week over the proposed loss of 38 jobs in Scotland.
"I'm freelance so I was an obvious cut," Mackenzie told The Scotsman yesterday. "They have to make serious rationalisations, and it is much cheaper to use a member of staff than use me."
The BBC has been rocked by ageism rows recently after popular Moira Stuart, 55, was dropped as a news presenter and longtime Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross, 59, was shunted out. Mackenzie's departure brought questions yesterday over whether discrimination was at work again.
But she said: "It is really much simpler: they have to make cuts. I am only 47. That didn't come into it, it is financial. The ageism thing is a complete red herring.
"I will miss the team at Newsnight, they were a lovely bunch of folk and it is a great wee programme. Most of the presenters are my age."
A BBC spokesman said yesterday: "It was part of our ongoing rationalisation, and we have decided to use a staff member rather than a freelancer. It is on cost grounds. We will be talking to her about any other projects in the future."
Mackenzie has been an integral part of Newsnight Scotland since it started in 1999. She returned to Scotland to join the team from London, where she had presented programmes such as The World Tonight on Radio 4. She anchored Newsnight Scotland once a week while Gordon Brewer hosted it on the other three days.
Married with a young son, Mackenzie has her home in Aberdeenshire and the BBC paid for her travel to Glasgow and overnight accommodation costs. Born in Stornoway on Lewis, Mackenzie joined Grampian Television in 1981, winning a BAFTA for her work there, and joined the BBC in 1995.
She presented Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland and anchored the news programme Reporting Scotland. She has played a major role in recent Scottish election coverage.
Campbell and Brewer are now the faces of Newsnight Scotland. John Milne, who has occasionally anchored the programme, retired six months ago.
Brian McNair, professor of journalism at the University of Strathclyde, appeared with Mackenzie on Newsnight Scotland recently. He said: "There's clearly a time of change in BBC Scotland. They have moved to a new headquarters and inevitably will present challenges to people used to doing things the old way.
"She may just have felt it was time to move on."
The BBC spokesman said: "Anne has been a valued member of our current affairs team. If we are being ageist at 47, there's no room for the rest of us."
THE SAME OLD STORY
THE BBC has been on the end of several recent allegations of "ageist" treatment of high-profile presenters. It refused to extend the contract of Crimewatch host Nick Ross, 59, saying the programme needed "refreshing", and was criticised by MPs when it dropped Moira Stewart, the country's first black woman newsreader. Tory MP Philip Davies said it was ironic for "the most politically-correct organisation in the country to be accused of ageism, racism and sexism".
The BBC was even forced to defend the departure of Michael Aspel, 74, as host of Antiques Roadshow. It said he left of his own accord.
The BBC is cutting thousands of jobs in a three-year savings plan. In Scotland, 195 job cuts were ordered but voluntary departures and reshuffles have cut the figure to 38.