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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
BBC chief in pledge to Scotland
Mark thompson
Mark Thompson spoke to BBC Scotland staff

The BBC's director general has backed a growth in Scottish programming as he opened its new Pacific Quay HQ.

Mark Thompson said it was vital to look outside London for fresh ideas as he outlined BBC Scotland's plans for increasing its content.

The announcement came after First Minister Alex Salmond called the BBC "hideously White City".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, watched by hundreds of guests and staff, officially opened the 188m building.

Mr Thompson told those gathered for Thursday's ceremony: "We're already committed to raising network deliveries from the nations to at least 17% of relevant output as part of our wider strategy of shifting the weight of our operations and our investment out of London and the south east of England and towards audiences and talent in the other nations and regions.

"Network deliveries from BBC Scotland not only can but must grow to at least its proportion of the UK population - though I regard that as a floor rather than any kind of ceiling."

It [Pacific Quay] is one of the world's leading digital centres and I am for one very proud that this is happening here in Glasgow
Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Currently, just over 3%, or approximately 38m, of the BBC's annual budget is spent on programme making in Scotland.

Based on Mr Thompson's pledge that would rise to 9% a year - representing about 90m, which is a growth of just over 50m.

Mr Thompson said future plans at the new HQ would include:

  • Relaunching a number of existing programme titles at Pacific Quay
  • Commissioning more fresh ideas from Scottish programme-makers
  • More Scottish-based drama
  • Additional network comedy hits like Still Game
  • More entertainment, children's programmes and more specialist factual programmes
  • A boost to network radio and multimedia production.

Mr Thompson added: "This building will also be the headquarters of our services to the Scottish public - both existing ones and our new ideas, like our plans to use the web and broadband to transform our coverage of and connections with Scotland's diverse and distinctive regions."

The prime minister also addressed the audience, saying he believed the building would become a design classic.

Mr Brown added: "It [Pacific Quay] is one of the world's leading digital centres and I am for one very proud that this is happening here in Glasgow."

BBC Scotland's Clyde HQ
The new Pacific Quay has been officially opened

Earlier, Sir Michael Lyons of the BBC trust said the new building heralded a new era for the corporation, answering criticisms that the BBC has been too "London-centric".

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "This is not a new issue - historically most of the BBC's buildings and infrastructure are in London - but that's changing.

"This extraordinary building at Pacific Quay is visible evidence of it."

Sir Michael said the BBC has set targets to increase the number of programmes that it buys from nations and regions in the UK.

However, he stressed that programme makers in Scotland must rise to the challenge.

"Nobody argues that things are right at the moment," he said.

Annual budget

"People have got to perform. But I'm confident that Scotland is capable of producing those ideas."

A broadcasting commission has been set up by the Scottish Government to examine the industry in Scotland amid concerns about a low level of Scottish programmes on network TV.

It will hold its first meeting next month.

When Mr Salmond announced its creation, he criticised broadcasters for claiming that an average of 3% of their annual budget was spent on programme making in Scotland because of a lack of talent and ideas.

Mr Salmond said he was "delighted" with Mr Thompson's funding pledge.

Alex Salmond
The director general has given a very strong indication that things are going to change for the better
First Minister Alex Salmond

"We established the broadcasting commission to look precisely at this and other key issues," he said.

"One of the points I made in establishing that body is that we should look upon the proportion of population not as a ceiling but as a floor, in terms of a share of programmes for Scotland.

"The director general has now repeated these words and has given a very strong indication that things are going to change for the better."

Mr Salmond said that change was "of vital importance" to the Scottish economy.

However, he said the commission was still needed to ensure the BBC "lives up to its obligations to the Scottish licence fee payers" and to examine problems in commercial broadcasting.

The Conservative culture spokesman, Ted Brocklebank MSP, said: "It was clearly unacceptable that Scotland-made programmes had been allowed to slip back to a 3% share of network spend.

"Hopefully Mr Thompson's assurances will go some way to countering any impression that Scotland doesn't have enough talent or ideas."

Gordon Brown formally opens the new building

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