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Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 19:28 GMT

UK Politics

MPs debate the 'Scottish Six'

Devolution is sparking calls for a separate Six O'clock News for Scotland

After the BBC's decision not to have a separate Six O'Clock News for Scotland, News Online asked two Scottish MPs to put the case for and against a "Scottish Six".

The case for is put by Roseanna Cunningham, SNP MP for Perth and Kinross.

[ image: Roseanna Cunningham: BBC
Roseanna Cunningham: BBC "ignored demand"
"This is the wrong decision for Scotland, and the wrong decision for the BBC. It is arrogant and high-handed, and flies in the face of the Scottish consensus. A recent poll showed that seven Scots in 10 are in favour of a Scottish-based and Scottish-edited main evening news bulletin - not the window dressing that the BBC has announced.

BBC Scotland management, journalists, the Broadcasting Council for Scotland, trade unions, the SNP, Lib Dems, civic organisations, and - such is the strength of the demand - even the Tories have backed the 'Scottish Six'.

Yet the London-based BBC has ignored this overwhelming demand, illustrating just how out of touch it is with its Scottish audience.

London-based Cabinet Ministers such as Alistair Darling and George Robertson reportedly lobbied the BBC against the 'Scottish Six'. Tony Blair was reported to be 'implacably opposed'.

On the BBC's Question Time a few weeks ago - during the warm-up question prior to recording - Helen Liddell was the only panel member who failed to back the 'Scottish Six'. And Donald Dewar has studiously failed to reflect the Scottish consensus and support the 'Scottish Six'.

London Labour lobbying has set the Scottish consensus in favour of appropriate broadcasting arrangements post-devolution at nought. Along with the BBC Governors, Labour shares the responsibility for this major missed opportunity.

As far as the 'Scottish Six' is concerned, it isn't a question of 'if', but 'when'. All that this decision means is that the BBC Governors will be dragged kicking and screaming by the pace of events post-devolution towards a 'Scottish Six', rather than showing an ability to rise to the challenge now.

This could well represent the twilight for the BBC in Scotland, because viewers will simply exercise consumer choice with their remote controls."

Click here to send us your views.

The case against a "Scottish Six" by Martin O'Neill, Labour MP for Ochil.

[ image: Martin O'Neill:
Martin O'Neill: "No-one outside the media's magic circle is really interested!"
"The case for ending a United Kingdom early evening news bulletin has not been made. Issues like Social Security, Taxation, European Foreign Affairs and National Security all have the covered in a UK context.

The example of the 'Good Morning Scotland' radio programme is not relevant, most Scots listen to their local commercial station at that time.

Would the Corporation be required to show the Six O'clock news on BBC2 for those who did not want the Scottish alternative. If so, at what cost?

Would the claims of the Welsh and Northern Ireland viewers, if there were a demand, be met and again would that be at the expense of other locally produced programmes?

The Labour Party believes in the independence of the BBC Governors to establish their own priorities. Ministers of course can have opinions, but political parties should not try to bully broadcasting companies into particular types of programming.

If the coverage of the institutions of devolved government throughout the United Kingdom is shown to fall short of what is considered to be comprehensive then the issue would have to be considered.

Politicians are always being told they take themselves to seriously, but so far there is little evidence from MPs' post bags, or Constituency Offices that a 'Scottish Six' is in demand. No one outside the media's magic circle is really interested!"

Click here to send us your views.

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