Scotland's top artists, including actor Alan Cumming, author AL Kennedy and comic book writer Mark Millar, have called upon the UK Government to fund a Scottish digital TV channel.

In an open letter published in today’s Sunday Herald, the 20 artists, comedians, actors, musicians and writers backed the campaign for a publicly-funded Scottish Digital Network.

The Westminster government, however, ruled it out as a possibility until 2018.

They write: “Scottish viewers should enjoy the kind of dedicated broadcasting service that is taken for granted in comparable territories all around Europe. There is clear audience demand, there is all-party support in the Scottish Parliament and there is a glaring public service deficit in the current arrangements.”

The signatories cover the full spectrum of Scottish cultural life. They include Braveheart star James Cosmo, Sweet Sixteen actor Martin Compston, author James Robertson, director of the Edinburgh International Festival Jonathan Mills, folk musician Julie Fowlis, comedian Craig Hill, Rab C Nesbitt star Elaine C Smith and Oscar-nominated cameraman, Seamus McGarvey.

They argue that a dedicated Scottish channel would provide more jobs and opportunities for the country’s artists.

Funding would come from the TV licence fee or from proceeds from selling off the digital spectrum. A report last year costed it at £75 million a year.

They conclude: “Digital devolution should mean that in the age of 500 channels, at least one of them is Scottish.”

Despite having broad political backing, the call for Scotland’s own digital network is only contained within the SNP’s manifesto. SNP culture spokeswoman, Fiona Hyslop MSP, said: “I am delighted that so many talented people from Scotland’s creative community are supporting the campaign for a Scottish Digital Network.

“Not only would the creation of a Scottish Digital Network address the democratic deficit in terms of our public service provision, but it would provide opportunities for the abundance of Scottish talent in our creative industries to bolster Scotland’s creative economy for years to come.

“It is time the UK Government acted on the strong support throughout Scotland for our own network. It is now a matter when a network will be established, rather than if.”

However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it would not consider funding a Scottish network until 2017-18 at the earliest. A spokesperson said: “Scotland is served by excellent public service broadcasting by BBC Scotland, MG Alba and STV. The BBC licence fee has been settled until the end of the current BBC charter.”