SNP group issue warning to BBC Scotland over planned job cuts

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
A group of SNP MSPs have written to BBC Scotland bosses warning the corporation against imposing job cuts they say will diminish the service received by Scots.
 
The eight MSPs from the Highlands and Islands have signed a strongly-worded letter to BBC Scotland protesting at “destructive” job cuts which the Corporation is planning throughout the region.

Michael Russell (Argyll and Bute), Fergus Ewing (Inverness and Nairn), Rob Gibson (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross), Alasdair Allan (Western Isles), Dave Thomson (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch), and Highlands and Islands regional MSPs Jean Urquhart, John Finnie and Mike MacKenzie have all told the BBC that they believe its actions threaten to “greatly diminish the essential service” which the BBC provides throughout the Highlands and islands.

In the letter, the MSPs write that the BBC’s “plan for the Highlands and Islands is even worse than your plans for the rest of the country.”

They add: “It seems incredible to us that at a time of huge political importance the BBC in Scotland is coming forward with plans to reduce the number of journalists working for the corporation.   We agree with the First Minister that the BBC should ‘start behaving like a national broadcaster’ and to do that you must invest in the future of the service rather than diminish it.”

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“It’s not just BBC staff themselves who are unhappy about the proposed cuts – everyone who cares about local broadcasting should be concerned that the BBC bosses propose to diminish its number of staff available throughout a huge swathe of Scotland.

“We are also unconvinced that it represents progress for Gaelic broadcasting to cut English language journalists and then ask Gaelic journalists to pick up the slack in addition to their own Gaelic work.

“We are now all seeking a meeting with the chair of the BBC Trust, to ask why, at a time when BBC Scotland should be showing ambition, and developing itself as a real national broadcaster, it is cutting back on such basic services.”

In the letter addressed to BBC Scotland Chief Ken MacQuarrie, the MSPs challenge claims made by the BBC over proposed cuts to staff in the region. 

According to the MSPs, BBC staff have told them that information the BBC has put into the public domain relating to the proposals is not accurate, they write:

“We have received representations from your staff in the Highlands which question, with considerable authority, the facts which you have placed in the public domain about both staff numbers and actions you intend to take to support staff continuing in post. 

“These facts also clearly suggest that the reduction in numbers of journalists cannot be compensated for by additional work forced on Gaelic news staff, as appears to be your proposal.  Not only are those staff fully occupied at present but also there are geographic and technical limitations to what can be achieved by them.”

The SNP group also highlighted their own concerns that Scottish Government resources provided to underpin the Gaelic language would instead be diverted to mainstream news reporting which, they said, would be “improper.”

The MSPs also challenged claims by the BBC that V-sat technology would be used in order to alleviate the situation, by pointing out that the Head of News and Current Affairs has already clearly stated that no such vehicles will be placed in Inverness.

The MSPs ended the letter by requesting a meeting with Mr MacQuarrie to discuss the situation and added: “We are also copying this to the Chair of the BBC Trust and we would welcome a meeting with him to ensure that body is aware of the destructive nature of your proposals”