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We should be demanding more of our well-heeled Auntie

Newsnight Scotland on BBC2 on Monday night opened with a slightly pompous disclaimer, distancing itself from the London programme into which it had, as it often does, cut fairly brutally.

Doubtless there was pride, reasonably enough, at Pacific Quay that Ken MacQuarrie, BBC Scotland director, had been identified – albeit by the subsequently-discredited former director general – as the untarnished, honest broker who should examine Newsnight's recent journalistic blunders.

There followed a discussion of a substantially higher standard than I expected, based on past experience of what occurs once the handover from Jeremy Paxman to the Caledonian version, which generally feels lightweight and under-funded by comparison.

It featured Lesley Riddoch, one of the country's finest broadcasters, and Professor Lindsay Paterson, a man of considerable principle who resigned from the BBC Trust when plans to broadcast a Scottish Six O'Clock News were abandoned, around the time of devolution.

The tone was set by Robert Beveridge, a media analyst who suggested BBC Scotland shouldbe a devolved set-up within a federal BBC; it was all seductive enough to those of a nationalistic bent.

Yet the best thing to have happened as a result of all that has gone on at the BBC recently, is surely that the organisation's absurdly vaunted status, which has allowed it to remain aloof in the face of criticism, is being re-examined across the board. And the Scottish branch should not be immune from that.

Discussion of the clannishness of the organisation across the UK would not, I suggest, seem unfamiliar to those who have had dealings with BBC Scotland down the years. My own experience has led me to believe that friendships with those who produce programmes are more useful than an individual's objective expertise on any given subject.

A recent example occurred when a friend contacted me, aghast at having heard a claim on BBC Scotland – it came not from a member of Glasgow Warriors or the Scottish Rugby Union but from a pundit –that critics of the controversial overhaul of the club's management had been "silenced" by the team's victory that night. Warriors had just beaten Connacht, one of the most poorly resourced rugby franchises in Europe. A month later they had been all but eliminated from the Heineken Cup four matches earlier than was the case last season.

That, though, is but a trivial concern compared with night after night of discussion of the Rangers administration issue: four or five months of it, during which it generally took only a couple of minutes to identify the usual voices using the same phraseology, offering little or nothing new by way of analysis.

The other day I teased a colleague – he had been among those I heard regularly going round and round in circles – about the nature of the discussion. "It was good for the bank balance," he said with a smile that seemed slightly sheepish as well it might be given the hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of pounds' worth of licence payers' money which has been devoted to this single subject.

Professor Paterson perhaps summed it up best on Monday's programme when he talked of the potential impact of the United States election on Scotland's devolution debate and suggested it was such that a quality Scottish news programme should, that night, have come from Washington and discussed the subject. "Instead, what did we get? Some murders and football . . . " he lamented.

We should be demanding much more of the one media organisation in the country that has not had its capacity for journalistic investigation compromised by the pressures of the recession, cushioned as it is by the licence fee we all have to pay.

So what are we getting now? To placate Rangers supporters, substantial amounts of licence payers' money is being spent on live coverage of a level of sport that, with apologies to some old pals who are involved in running Stirling Albion these days, is beneath mediocre.

Would that money not be better spent examining the performance of the other quasi-public bodies that run sport in this country, at a time when almost every Scot who aspires to reaching the top of his or her sport must leave the country?

In sports governance in this country, the emphasis seems to be on careers for those who had a talent for sports participation rather than one for sports administration.

It leads to the sort of conspiracy-theorising that has generated a rumour to the effect that there is a chief executive of a Scottish sport whose PA has a PA. Could it be true? If it is, then it is just the latest piece of evidence that it is not just BBC Scotland who are getting away with "murder and football".

If BBC Scotland could be persuaded to distance itself from the Scottish sporting establishment as readily as it did from its colleagues in London the other night, the journalistic climate could evolve in such a way that the opportunity to bring all concerned to book would emerge.

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