Scotland Bill agreement described as ‘missed opportunity’ for broadcasting

THE Scottish Government has described proposed legislation going through Westminster as a “missed opportunity to strengthen public service broadcasting in Scotland”.

It follows the Scottish Government striking a deal – announced yesterday, following negotiations with the Scottish Secretary of State, Michael Moore MP – over the Scotland Bill. Agreed were additional powers regarding taxation and borrowing.

Reports several newspapers today – particularly in The Scotsman – the agreement was a mixed bag for the Scottish Government in its bid to gain additional powers, including in broadcasting.

The Scottish Government’s hopes regarding broadcasting were summarised as follows:

• To have the right to establish public service broadcasting institutions;

• To be involved in future licence fee setting arrangements;

• To have responsibility for approving licensing decisions made by the UK Government for local televisions which will broadcast within Scotland;

• To have the ability to intervene in local cross-media mergers that affect Scotland; and

• To have the power to add or remove events from the list of those that must be shown live on free-to-air television.

Said a Scottish Government spokesperson: “The Scotland Bill represents a missed opportunity to strengthen public service broadcasting in Scotland.

“We argued for Scotland to receive powers to strengthen public service broadcasting in the Scotland Bill, and although it contains welcome provisions for Scottish Government involvement in appointments to the BBC Trust and MG Alba Board, the UK Government has resisted more significant changes.

“As the Bill provides the Scottish Parliament with some additional powers – and we have succeeded in removing the harmful elements – the Scottish Government will not stand in the way of this Bill.

“However, Scotland needs and deserves a stronger voice in broadcasting and we will continue to press the UK Government on this matter.

“The case for Scotland gaining more responsibility for broadcasting is compelling. It would lead to more choice for viewers and benefits for our economy and democracy.

“In any event, people will get the opportunity to vote for the powers that Scotland needs with independence in the autumn 2014 referendum.”