THE twenty-year campaign for an hour-long Scottish Six TV news programme is over. The plan for a mix of Scottish, UK and international coverage has been rejected by BBC bosses in London.

Lord Tony Hall, the BBC’s Director-General, will formally announce the verdict when he appears before MSPs at Holyrood on Thursday. A previous bid for an autonomous show was rejected by the previous DG Mark Thomson in 2006.

Several pilot programmes of the bulletin, which was intended to replace Reporting Scotland and the Six O’Clock News, have been produced by BBC Scotland and fronted by Jackie Bird. BBC insiders claim these have had a mixed reception in London.

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It is not known whether Hall will cite lack of quality or finance when he speaks to the culture committee this week.

STV is also planning a similar hour-long bulletin, likely to be shown at 7pm, and it is understood that several pilots with presenter John Mackay have already been produced.

Last night, television unions blasted the BBC decision as “a kick in the teeth” for Scottish broadcasting, which one MP said would be left stuck in a “1970s time warp”.

BBC chiefs were also accused of making a politically motivated move to centralise decision-making in London at a time of rising support for Scottish independence.

Senior BBC managers in Scotland were informed of the decision by top brass in London ahead of Hall’s appearance before Holyrood’s culture committee — where he will be accompanied by the broadcaster’s Scottish director Donalda MacKinnon. He is likely to face vigorous questioning, and she will undoubtedly be asked whether she agrees with the decision.

SNP MP John Nicolson said the decision would damage trust in the BBC in Scotland and lead to perceptions the UK Government had intervened to block a Scottish Six. The Conservative Party has traditionally opposed the idea of creating a Scottish Six.

Nicolson, the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson for culture, media and sport, said it showed the “cloth-eared” approach of BBC bosses in London to the independence debate.

He said: “Given that the BBC is trusted in Scotland less than in any part of the UK, I cannot see that this will increase trust levels. It will be seen as a political rather than a journalistic decision. It’s not what staff want.

“We’re now in a time where Scotland is being dragged out of the EU against its will, with polls showing a move in support towards Scottish independence.

“The BBC has been under a great deal of political pressure on this issue so I’m not surprised, but I’m very disappointed for the staff at BBC Scotland. The decision shows what a cloth ear senior figures in London have for the debate in Scotland.”

Paul Holleran, Scottish organiser of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said the move showed the BBC’s attitude to Scotland “stinks”.

Holleran claimed “a big part” of the decision was driven by a desire to curb the influence of Scotland, amid the prospect of a second independence referendum.

He said: “It’s political decision-making. We won’t be given enough money to expand the news programme. It’s really stupid to rule out any expanded news programme.

“Part of it must be a political kick in the teeth, as it’s saying we’re not going to help you move to a more independently resourced Scotland network.”

He added: “It’s about keeping things centralised and wanting to control everything. They want to control the agenda set by London and Westminster, but the Scottish Six equivalent they’d see as coming into conflict with that view.”

Holleran said the refusal of additional resources for an extended news programme was London decision makers saying “we don’t give a damn about you” to Scots.

He said: “The workforce will be really angry as cuts have left them in a very difficult position. It’s a kick in the teeth for the Scottish management of the BBC. It’s struggling at the moment and is under resourced. It’s a real blow to TV production in Scotland and is a missed opportunity.”

Calls from the NUJ for the BBC to be allowed to spend a greater proportion of the license fee raised in Scotland were repeatedly being refused, he maintained. The union wants 90 per cent spent in Scotland as against the present 55 per cent.

“We’ve asked for BBC Scotland to get a higher proportion of spending in Scotland based on the license fee raised,” Holleran said. “We and the BBC Scotland management have put forward a budgetary bid for an expansion of current affairs and for money to commission writers, for music and drama programmes.

“But we’re expecting an announcement on Thursday at the culture committee that will fall far short of this. The attitude from London stinks as we’re not going to get anywhere near that initial budgetary demand.”

Nicolson said rejecting the proposal was “enormously disappointing” and would leave the BBC’s Reporting Scotland’s programme starved of resources to deliver modern news coverage.

The East Dunbartonshire MP said: “BBC newsroom staff have been led up to the top of a hill and led back down again. The staff were working incredibly hard, working on pilot programmes.

“Reporting Scotland will remain stuck in a 1970s time warp. The argument for having a Scottish Six is unanswerable and for those Unionist politicians who say the SNP Government needs more scrutiny, there could not be a better opportunity to scrutinise the Scottish Government by having an hour-long news programme.

“It’s an important time for journalistic scrutiny and the current arrangements for BBC Scotland are simply not adequate.”

He added: “It was never about simply ticking a box that said there’s more Scottish news now, it’s about producing a product that’s suitable for today’s climate. A newspaper on any given Sunday may have its front page about the UK, Scotland or Europe. You makes decisions on a news value basis.”

A Scottish Government source added: “The Scottish Six is something which has been on the agenda for decades, and if the decision is not to go ahead it would be a major missed opportunity in terms of improving news and current affairs coverage in Scotland, and in boosting the nation’s media industry overall.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We’ve been formulating our charter proposals for Scotland and will announce that shortly.”