A SENIOR BBC Scotland executive has told MSPs he "did not recognise" staff cut figures claimed by unions, and said he had every confidence of providing world-class coverage of the independence referendum and the Commonwealth Games.

After two previous Holyrood hearings with the Education and Culture Committee, BBC Scotland said they would refuse to negotiate with staff in public and refused to appear again. But the committee wrote to BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten in December and in his response he made clear if circumstances changed BBC Scotland executives would be willing to return.

That change of circumstance involved the committee questioning the ability of BBC Scotland to cover key events such as the referendum and the Commonwealth Games next year, prompting the appearance at Holyrood of BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie, head of news and current affairs John Boothman, and Bruce Malcolm, head of Commonwealth Games 2014 coverage.

Mr Boothman was "disappointed" by evidence given by Peter Murray of the National Union of Journalists, last year claiming one pro-gramme saw a 60% cut in posts.

"There is no programme in news and current affairs that has had a staff cut of 60%," he insisted. When pressed by convener Stewart Maxwell with figures relating to Good Morning Scotland, Mr Boothman replied: "These are not figures I generally recognise."

Mr Boothman said: "The picture presented by the unions at the last meeting, for me, was not a true picture of what's happening. I prefer to look through the other end of the telescope.

"I'm very, very, very optimistic, going forward, of how we can cover the Commonwealth Games and the referendum, and all those other things happening in 2014."

Mr Boothman added: "Yes, things are not without their challenges and their difficulties. We are where we are."

Mr McQuarrie was confronted with staff survey figures showing satisfaction ratings of 67% across the BBC compared with 41% in Scotland. Across the UK, 45% said they thought the leadership was acting "according to BBC values" in contrast to 17% of Scottish respondents.

Mr Maxwell asked: "Are you not shocked by those appallingly low figures," saying it indicated "rock-bottom morale and a lack of communication".

Mr McQuarry insisted that at recent staff meetings the "tone and atmosphere had been positive and convivial," but he said of cutting £700 million from budgets to match the licence fee freeze until 2017: "This isn't easy. It's difficult to make and causes uncertainty among staff facing change."