It's hard not to sympathise just a little with much-maligned BBC Scotland.

It doesn't matter how many hours of Scottish programming it churns out – much of it pretty good, much if it in Gaelic – the Scottish viewer or listener will always feel short-changed. More than half of Scots feel BBC Scotland does not reflect life north of the Border, according to the latest survey of viewer attitudes by Audience Research Scotland. The only surprise is that 48% in the same survey apparently do.

It drives members of my family to distraction hearing me fulminate about yet another edition of Question Time almost entirely devoted to the English health and education reforms, or to the criminal justice system south of the Border or Ukip or immigration.

Loading article content

My kids find it rather embarrassing hearing me pontificate about how up to 40% of the network 6pm news is irrelevant to Scotland. They think it is naff and parochial to be complaining about the preponderance of English stories on the BBC's major bulletins. They appear to think Michael Gove's three Rs curriculum reforms are more important than the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland.

Perhaps that's because they regard the new Scottish curriculum as an incomprehensible compendium of educational platitudes dressed up in right-on jargon. But free schools, exam boards, tuition fees? "We don't want wall-to-wall Alex Salmond," they say. But I find it increasingly annoying having to disaggregate BBC TV news to filter out what is irrelevant to Scotland. I even find myself getting annoyed at Mr Gove's educational primitivism, forgetting that Scotland is immune to it.

It's even worse with the NHS. There has been near saturation coverage this year on network bulletins of the funding crises of foundation hospitals in England, about GP contracts, A&E closures and scandals such as Mid Staffs. And yes, the NHS is a UK institution, so what happens in England is important. But when did you last hear about anything to do with the NHS in Scotland on 6pm news?

Here the NHS has not been subjected to the market reforms that have caused so much controversy in England. We have a much better idea of how well or badly the system is being run in Scotland thanks to The Herald's Time for Action series of articles on our NHS.

But the existence of a major English story tends to cast a shadow over coverage generally here. Conversely when there is a big story in Scotland, the UK media often ignores it.

The reason so many BBC network news programmes seem so anglocentric is because they tend to take their editorial agenda from the press, which doesn't report Scotland in its London editions. This, rather that any anti-Scottish bias among editors of the 6pm news or Any Questions, accounts for the absence of Scottish stories.

If you ask BBC network producers about reflecting Scotland they are genuinely mystified. "But we always make clear we are talking about England and Wales," they say, as if that was the end if it. Ask them if they ever cover stories about the Scottish NHS or education system and they will look at you blankly and say: "What stories?"

Issues such as gay marriage or the cost of sending kids to university are seen from a metropolitan perspective because they don't read stories about the Scottish system in the UK press. They think it would be perverse to run stories about Scottish issues that are of zero interest to the majority of their viewers and listeners. Problems with the marking of English A Level results at national news while the problems at the Scottish Qualifications Agency over marking of Highers are not. What they really like are stories about badgers.

There's no getting round this, given the centralised architecture of BBC News. It's just how it is. Over a decade ago, the BBC had the opportunity to address the problem by introducing a Scottish 6pn edition of the news, but this was rejected because of the fear it would promote nationalism. Precisely the reverse is the case.

The metropolitan parochialism of the media is one of the SNP's best recruiting sergeants, because it perpetuates the myth of London bias. Mind you, when Question Time puts the SNP's Angus Robertson up against four Unionists, including George Galloway and Nigel Farage, you have to wonder if it's just myth.

BBC Scotland does its level best to rectify the balance. However, it knows, and we know, that it is regional broadcasting. Just look at all the programmes – few do. Too often BBC Scotland seems to be producing second-rate programmes for a second-class audience. I worked for the BBC for many years, and share the blame.

But it needn't be this way. I have never been involved in a factual programme from Scotland that had the investment or production values of the STV and The Herald's Road to Referendum documentaries transmitted last month. They weren't satisfied with regional and the difference was obvious on screen. Road to Referendum, which reappears on the ITV network on August 15, was the work of a former BBC Scotland employee too: the producer-director Brendon O'Hara. How does the BBC manage to lose people like that?

Partly out of fear. BBC Scotland is intensely worried about generating political controversy or offending the self-appointed guardians of the constitution such as Lord Foulkes, who complained about Road to Referendum before he'd even seen it. BBC Scotland prefers dull late-night programmes that no-one watches because that makes life easier for the dull bureaucrats who run the corporation.

This I am afraid is why you will never see a Borgen on BBC Scotland, even if it had the money to make it. It would simply cause too much heat. Westminster MPs would girn about the BBC promoting independence. Lunches with the controller would become tense and tetchy.

I am heartened that the BBC is sending the excellent Today presenter, Jim Naughtie, on a two- day a week loan to Good Morning Scotland (GMS) in the run-up to the referendum. Tokenism it may be, but at least he will be able to confirm how minimal are the resources of GMS compared to the network flagship.

Even here, metropolitan preoccupations abound. Papers such as the Independent reported this, not as a great boost to Scottish broadcasting, but as a sign that Naughtie is being edged out of his Today seat in favour of someone younger and more telegenic. "Poor old Jim floats away," said the London Evening Standard. Sums it up perfectly.