The Scheme Branded 'Tabloid TV at its Worst'

An observational documentary series about a housing scheme in Kilmarnock has been branded “tabloid TV at its worst”, by a local MSP.

During a debate at the Scottish Parliament, SNP MSP, Willie Coffey, criticised The Scheme's depiction of poverty and drug and alcohol dependency among its residents.

But former BBC-Scotland-reporter-turned-Tory-MSP, Ruth Davidson, defended the series as having prompted a debate.

Coffey is quoted on the BBC website, as saying: “It was tabloid TV at its worst – local people were kidded and conned by this venture. They feel used and abused and many who agreed to be filmed now wish they hadn't done so.”

Adds the website: “BBC Scotland said The Scheme was the station's best performing documentary in the past ten years.”

Another SNP MSP, Margaret Burgess, a former Citizens Advice worker who previously worked with residents in the area, is also quoted, as saying the community “did not deserve to be treated the way they have been by the BBC”. But she is also quoted, adding: “The programme did highlight some important issues around drugs, alcohol and deprivation – issues which society needs to know about and issues they we've got to address, so I don't have an argument with the BBC there.”

Davidson is reported having not watched the series, and saying: “I also agree that it sounded like tabloid television at its worst and also 'poverty pornography', as it's been called in a number of newspapers.

“When we look at this programme and we look at it in the round, what it has done in Scotland is promote a debate.

“It's promoted a debate not just about poverty in the representations of the people that are shown in the programme, but its also promoted a debate about addictions.”

The website adds that The Scheme attracted an average audience of 840,000 viewers, while a special studio debate subsequently held to air issues raised in the series was watched by 348,000 people.

It is understood there were 70 complaints about the series, to the BBC.