BBC Scotland launched a #7m expansion into digital television yesterday but admitted almost no-one would be able to enjoy the service in its infancy because the technology viewers needed to watch it was not yet available.

The new channel, BBC Choice Scotland, was broadcast for the first time on satellite last night, offering an ''exciting blend'' of entertainment, debate, and news programmes hosted by a team of new presenters.

The channel is part of a UK-wide BBC Choice digital service also launched yesterday, the first general station launched by the BBC for 34 years.

Widescreen BBC 1, BBC2, and BBC News24 also joined the new digital universe with terrestrial and satellite signals yesterday.

BBC Choice Scotland, which is aimed mainly at 16 to 30-year-olds, will initially have a two-hour opt-out slot between 10pm and midnight each weekday.

Last night's programmes included a news programme called Newsline, a repeat of the comedy show Naked Video, a debate programme called Late Flyte, and a music show called The Beat Room.

However, the #200 set-top decoders or black boxes needed to receive the service are not expected to be available in the shops for another two weeks, meaning almost no-one will be able to watch the service until then.

BBC Scotland's head of broadcast, Mr Ken MacQuarrie, said yesterday: ''At the very start, few people will have access to much of what will be on offer but this will change very quickly as the technology becomes more widely available and more people appreciate the benefits of this new dimension in broadcasting.

''It was always our intention to have the service up and running before the decoders were available so that people can see what is on offer before deciding if they want to go into digital services.''

BBC Choice Scotland's 10 hours per week will almost double output from the BBC in Scotland to 1200 hours a year. There are plans for a substantial increase in programming next year.

Its new presenters include former Border TV presenter Penny Macmillan (Newsline) and radio presenter Tam Cowan, who will host a new football show called Offside.

Describing the launch as the most exciting development at BBC Scotland in many years, Mr MacQuarrie said: ''The focus for the programming will be informal, zestful, and light-hearted.

''We have made the style much more accessible and informal to provide what we feel is perhaps missing from our current service.''

The BBC pledged that the UK-wide BBC Choice would also be a fresh approach to television and not a collection of tired repeats, despite its tiny #20m annual budget.

Extended sport and live music events will be part of the mix but there will also be more than 1000 hours of original programmes before the end of the year.