BBC SCOTLAND'S flagship news programme should stop "putting a kilt" on UK and international stories and concentrate on a wider news agenda, the show's main presenter has told the Sunday Herald In an exclusive interview, Gordon Brewer, who has presented Newsnight Scotland since the show's inception in 1999, said the programme should take a broader view on stories of interest to viewers in Scotland.

He said there had been pressure on Newsnight Scotland in the past to focus solely on issues unfolding in Scotland. But in a call for a radical change in the direction of news coverage north of the Border, Brewer said: "Some people think that all Newsnight Scotland needs to do is put a kilt on stories. But there is a separate forum for debate in Scotland and they don't have to be necessarily Scottish issues. I do not think that is nationalist' or anti-nationalist'. It is just saying there is a different, but closely-related, intellectual space."

Brewer said the show would increasingly focus on the questions debated in Scotland. He said Newsnight Scotland's coverage of the war in Iraq was an example of the show getting it right.

"We could have accepted that it had nothing to do with Scotland. But we had, at the time, an opposition that was against the war, which you didn't have down south, so you had a different space for debate up here. This is important for the way we are going to move in the future using material that is about growing the forum for debate in Scotland."

Newsnight Scotland, which has an average audience of around 70,000 viewers, replaces the last third of the Newsnight programme broadcast from London. The Scottish opt-out has been controversial since its launch, criticised for low budgets and an allegedly insular outlook. Newsnight's main presenter, Jeremy Paxman, notoriously described it as "collective punishment" for the Scottish nation.

Brewer said Scottish audiences deserved to be told where the Holyrood government differed from the rest of the UK.

"There is endless debate about the NHS and it is now being run in very different ways in various parts of the country. It is not our job to make judgements but to let people know about the differences that are out there, and that is true of a whole range of different topics."

Brewer's comments come as the Scottish Broadcasting Commission - the independent body set up by first minister Alex Salmond to investigate the broadcasting industry - starts to examine the ways television could better inform audiences about the democratic process.

One media adviser on the first minister's team applauded Brewer's call. "In my view, Newsnight Scotland and all news broadcast programmes of its ilk should be putting Scottish news in its widest possible context. We have always said it is better to get views through a Scottish filter. As a very experienced broadcaster, Gordon Brewer's comments are very interesting indeed."

l Media: pages 72&73