SNP proposals for establishing a new public service broadcaster in an independent Scotland would lead to a higher licence fee, fewer programmes and fewer channels, the deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party has warned.
Anas Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Central, argued it was “simply living in a fantasy world” to suggest the current range of BBC TV, radio, website and iPlayer content would be available in an independent Scotland.
Mr Sarwar yesterday told MPs during a debate on Scottish separation and the future of the BBC that First Minister Alex Salmond intended to establish a separate licence fee-funded broadcaster in Scotland.
Mr Salmond, he added, had asserted that Scottish viewers would see no change and enjoy the same access to existing BBC output.
If everyone paid the full amount for their licence fee in Scotland, Mr Sarwar said, it would generate £320 million, but allowing for discounts it was close to £300m – compared with the current UK-wide BBC budget for all platforms of about £3.5 billion.
He added: “It is inconceivable that the quality, quantity and breadth of output could be maintained with just 10 per cent of the current resource.”
SNP MP Pete Wishart said Labour’s claims were wrong.
“Under current UK-wide arrangements, BBC Scotland’s budget of £102m is being cut by £16m, with the loss of up to 120 jobs in the next four years,” he said in a statement.
The BBC raises £325m in revenue from Scottish licence fee payers, but spends only £176m on production and infrastructure costs in Scotland.
“The current situation provides Scottish licence fee payers with a very poor deal.
“An independent Scotland will be able to use this £149m bonus for investment in more programmes and more channels, providing more jobs in broadcasting in Scotland.
“None of this will come at any extra cost to Scottish licence fee payers.”