SCOTTISH NEWS HIT FOR SIX

If today's Sunday Herald has it right, its scoop is both good and thoroughly dispiriting.  They assured their readers that plans for a Scottish Six news hour were dead in the water.

When I first started writing in favour of a Scottish Six expanded tea time news Labour were still in power in Westminster and it was more than rumoured that among the voices whispering in the then Director General's ear was Gordon Brown.  He was not apparently in favour.  When your power base is in London you want to keep it there.

But this time around it seemed  a reasonably positive head of steam had built up.  BBC Scotland had recorded several versions of a pilot, and their bruising encounter with the 2014 Referendum seemed to suggest that giving more power and money to Pacific Quay would be a smart way to heal some still festering wounds.

But according to the SH story, when the current DG, Tony Hall, appears in front of Holyrood's culture committee this coming Thursday, he will indicate that the revamped Scottish Six is not going ahead.  Doubtless the announcement will be accompanied by all manner of smaller scale sops designed to stop the natives getting too restless - but the bald fact will be that London has once again unilaterly put a stop to Scottish ambitions to reflect the news through the prism of Scottish sensibilities. 

These ambitions have most recently been forged, at least in part, by Gary Smith, the still relatively new Head of News who has indicated that he wanted to put resources behind new ways of delivering news services. Among his early moves was the decision to call a halt to Scotland 2017 - which fared less well in the ratings than STV's Scotland Tonight against which it was pitched - and instead launch an early evening Thursday show, which on present showing seems to be modelled on  BBC 's London based One Show, but with Scottish based features.

Ironically, BBC Scotland having left the late night news commentary field open to STV, it seems the commercial broadcaster is also piloting an hour long nightly early evening news show which which go out about an hour later than the planned and now ditched Scottish Six. 

Many people who opposed the concept of a Scottish Six did so in a kneejerk fashion without understanding the thinking behind it.  Many  worried that it would be relentlessly parochial as if any news editor worth his or her salt could not put together a schedule which recognised that major stories out of Aleppo would always trump minor ones from Aberdeen.  

Had a properly resourced Scottish Six  been allowed to grow and flourish it would have done so with  a mix of national, UK and international news, utilising the existing range of foreign correspondents.

Such a format would have done two important things: it would have allowed all these issues to be explored  through Scottish eyes and it would have avoided the perenially irritating business of a Six O'Clock News item featuring a Scottish story, being reprised just minutes later by Reporting Scotland, often using identical footage.

There is a very real undercurrent of frustration about the way in which BBC Scotland still has the important strings pulled by a London hierarchy which does very nicely out of Scottish licence fees. Some of the criticism levelled at its 2014 referendum coverage was over the top and inaccurate, certainly in respect of individual reporters and presenters who strove for impartiality sometimes in the teeth of hostile commentary from Trolls United.

But some of the decisions made further up the food chain were perverse to say the least.  I recall one particular day when there was a controversial Orange Parade in Edinburgh's Princes Street, and a huge Yes rally in Glasgow's Buchanan Street.

For reasons best known to himself, the then news editor used footage of the Edinburgh march re-branded  as a pro union  one, whilst screening a shot of half a dozen Yes campaigners in a doorway quite failing to cut to the thousands of banner wavers just feet away.  I somehow doubt the  camera team  missed the relevant shot, but then they would have no say in what was screened.

That is all blood under the bridge. But this new decision on the Scottish Six is being taken at a time of similar sensitivity.  We may well be on the verge of a new  Indpendence campaign with all the passions that will stir up.  Even if not, we are in for months if not years of fractious Brexit coverage - an issue which provided very different referendum results on either side of the border.  Coverage of it must reflect that, and must do so without London having a veto on how and about what the Scottish audience is being informed.

Obviously people access their news in a very different manner from when the Six was first mooted almost two decades ago.  They watch at different times on different platforms. But regardless of whether it's accessed on iPlayer or mobile the essential ground rules remain: content is paramount, and who decides it is crucial.