Labour politicians are set to oppose any proposals to replace the BBC Six O’Clock News with a “Scottish Six” north of the border.
The first shot in the campaign comes next week when MPs meet senior BBC managers in London, following an invitation from the controller of BBC Scotland, John McCormick.
An hour-long daily evening news programme for Scotland at six o’clock, centred on Scottish affairs and wholly replacing the current UK-wide bulletin, could be on the cards before the end of this year.
News has leaked out that BBC Scotland has recorded three pilots or “demonstration tapes” of the programme, which could replace the existing two half-hour programmes that cover UK and Scottish affairs from 6pm to 7pm. The pilots were recorded by the existing Reporting Scotland team and fronted by Sally Magnusson, Jackie Bird and David Robertson.
Should BBC Scotland establish a Scottish service with the support of the London news operation, it would represent a volte face for the BBC.
Three years ago, director general Greg Dyke ruled out any prospect of a fully devolved Scottish six o’clock news. Instead, BBC Scotland was given a 15-minute opt-out from Newsnight with Newsnight Scotland.
The Scottish National Party has welcomed the news of a possible new format, but Labour MP Brian Wilson, a journalist and co-founder of the weekly West Highland Free Press, has claimed there is no need for such a service.
“There’s not one iota of public demand for this kind of change. BBC Scotland should concentrate on improving the quality of its existing news and current affairs output, which would have universal support.”
A BBC spokesman said: “BBC Scotland is conducting a comprehensive review of its news and current affairs services on radio and television.
“The current news hour on BBC One between 6pm and 7pm performs very well in Scotland, with both the Six O’Clock News and Reporting Scotland well ahead of ITV.
“One proposition we are testing is that television news could be integrated, so that BBC Scotland produced and presented a single programme encompassing international, UK and Scottish news.”
By Hamish Mackay