THE “Scottish Six” was never going to happen without controversy. The news that the BBC was planning to pilot the long-debated news programme covering Scottish, UK and world affairs from a Scottish perspective, triggered fevered social media debate, as well as “turmoil” at BBC Scotland, There, staff found some of the comments of a leaked BBC memo “insulting”. They were outraged by the way it cast doubt on the ability of the present Glasgow-based news team, saying it "has some strong talent but not enough depth of specialism". Journalists threatened to block the project, which they said was being thrust on them without consultation.

Such has the staff discontent been, that on Friday, an anonymous BBC source told the Sunday Herald: "The problem is the newsroom at Pacific Quay has had five years of job cuts and resources being stripped out under Ken MacQuarrie [director of BBC Scotland], and the old head of news, John Boothman. So people were really upset when the first they hear of these plans is in the Daily Mail.”

"People are really worried,” the source added, “that the news bosses in London are trying to kill the project. Being given less than three weeks to turn the pilots around is just ludicrous, and nobody understands why Kenny MacQuarrie agreed to it."

Meanwhile, debate has raged across social media and online platforms. Is a Scottish Six even what people want? What if it ends up being little more than an hour-long Reporting Scotland? Why had it even taken this long, given it was proposed nearly 20 years ago? Is the level of investment – £5 million – in an already resource-stripped institution, enough? The Sunday Herald spoke with key figures from the industry and the debate surrounding it, to get their views.

Blair Jenkins, former Head of News and Current Affairs at BBC Scotland and chair of the 2008 Scottish Broadcasting Commission

“The Scottish Six has been a good idea for 20 years. I can’t get too excited about it because it’s been talked about for so long and I feel, ‘Just get on and do it.’ But if BBC Scotland are now going to do it, they are going to have to be tough. They are going to have to be determined, because there will be a substantial campaign to kick it to death. It’s going to come under sustained assault.

I think an hour-long programme is quite a tough sell to people. I think you could do a very good, tightly edited half-hour programme.

One concern I do have is that yet again the whole debate about BBC broadcasting in Scotland is being reduced to one hour on BBC1. I think, if one were being cynical, it almost looks like classic diversion tactics. The menu that has been discussed in Scotland of things we would want from the BBC going forward, has included a much more devolved form of broadcasting, a new Scottish channel and that type of thing, and suddenly we’re all talking about the Scottish Six again. We have to keep our focus on the big picture.

My view on this is that to make any progress on broadcasting issues in Scotland you have to depoliticise them. As soon as you start merging discussions about broadcasting with politics, everyone gets into their trenches.

Having looked at this a lot over the years, there are practical issues that need to be resolved. If a culture of internal dissent is allowed to develop where people in London are resisting it and they’re not cooperating with the new programme, then there will be problems. The precedent for this was when Newsnight Scotland was launched, because the Newsnight team in London did everything they could to undermine it. These internal cultural things are important. If it’s going to happen everybody is going to have to pull together.”

Maggie Cunningham, former Joint Head of Programmes and Services at BBC Scotland

"It has to be an inevitability that there is a news programme anchored in Scotland that looks at the world from a Scottish perspective. If you look at the radio, BBC Good Morning Scotland has been doing it for more years than I can remember. So I don’t think there’s any question over our ability to do it. I think it will only be good if it’s resourced properly and it builds on all the strengths that the BBC already has. The gravest danger would be if you thought you just had to add another half hour to Reporting Scotland. It’s got to be a completely different concept. And whoever the editor is, is going to have to have a thick skin to start with."

Alex Salmond, former First Minister

"A responsive organisation would have done this many years ago. The BBC should be hanging its head in shame that they haven’t taken advantage of the many opportunities to deliver an appropriate news programme and service to the Scottish people. So I’m glad that progress has now been made. Of course before this campaign the most recent call was from the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, chaired by Blair Jenkins, which was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament, and even in the face of a unanimous recommendation, the BBC didn’t respond. So I’m glad that movement is now taking place and I congratulate Fiona Hyslop on her skill in bringing the matter forward.

The reality of course is that all of the conventional arguments against the Scottish Six were demolished years ago when technology gave you the ability to run an edited Scottish programme, in the same way as we have had an edited radio programme. People think that the Scottish Six will be a longer Reporting Scotland, but of course it’s not that. It’s a medium for local, national and international news with a Scottish lens.

I hope from the progress towards the Scottish Six will come other things. For instance genuine commissioning in Scotland. In response to the Broadcast commission, the BBC has gone from about 3 per cent of network produced in Scotland, to a population share. But they’ve achieved it by packaging networked programmes as if they were produced in Scotland. The newspapers used to call it putting a kilt on things.

A public broadcaster is the anchor of much of cultural and ethical and film life in a country, and we’ve had a vacuum at the heart of our broadcasting arts because of the behaviour of the BBC."

Lesley Riddoch, journalist and broadcaster

"I think there’s quite a lot of thinking that still needs to happen. This needs to be the jewel in the crown. But where’s the crown? And morale at BBC Scotland is just so appalling. You can’t stick a new format, that’s quite demanding, on people without consulting them. It sounds like it’s a whiny niggle, but I think it indicates so much dissatisfaction with the constraints they have found themselves in for years. Having worked for the BBC for 25 years there’s not a single decision they have taken over that period where the staff were consulted. It’s extraordinary that they never learn. I just think if you try to graft a new programme onto the outlook and resources and the battered morale and defensiveness that has grown up in BBC Scotland, you’re on to a loser."

Ken Macintosh, Labour MSP

"My problem with the Scottish Six is every time I hear mention of it, I don’t recognise a public view. What I hear is a very political agenda. The public, as far as I can see, have no interest at all. In fact, most people you ask, would be extremely concerned and alarmed to lose something and not be sure what they are going to gain. If you are to opt out of the main national UK news at six, what exactly are you going to get? You won’t get first call at the BBC correspondents if you’re not the main programme. They’ll go to the main programme. I can’t work out how this will be resolved. There are far too many political figures involved in this. It’s quite clear that for many they might dress it up in modest language and gradualism but they’ve got a very clear agenda, which is to make things more Scottish and less British. What they’re trying to do is control what the Scottish people discuss through having a more Scottish BBC, less UK oriented BBC."

Eamonn O’Neill, investigative journalist and academic

"I’ve always supported the Scottish Six. It’s a good idea, and I think it’s something the BBC can do. I think the staff have got the talent and as long as they’ve got the money and the resources, it could be exciting. If you look at BBC Radio Scotland, Good Morning Scotland, which I’m on at the weekend, constantly handles international contributors and correspondents of the highest calibre and they mix it in with news about Scotland, and it’s a really eclectic modern mix. No wonder its figures are going up. So I don’t see what the big deal about putting it on the telly is. And I don’t agree with this whole idea that if Scotland gets it, it’ll be all tartan and nationalist and narrow. There’s a lot of stuff that is unreported in Scotland, and I would also like to see a Scottish perspective on national and international news. I made my first Dispatches for Channel 4 25 years ago, and I’ve always thought we can make great Dispatches and, if Sam Collyns and Mark Daly can make great Panoramas, why can’t we do the news?"

Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy, Edinburgh University, and former member of Broadcasting Council for Scotland

“Clearly a Scottish Six done at the quality of the BBC Scottish journalism at present would be awful. The general standard of what they produce is absolutely atrocious. We have endless diets of murders, of violence, of crimes, of past crimes, even though they happened many years ago. The bulletin leads with things that are utterly trivial, in terms of general news values, at a time when there are major events going on in the world. Investment in quality is absolutely crucial. So it’s very welcome indeed that what appears to be being planned is a massive investment.

The quality has steadily deteriorated as Scotland’s autonomy, and therefore the need for it, has increased. I’m not implying that the BBC is biased. I’m absolutely not siding with those who said the problem with the BBC was that they were biased. It’s just simply poor quality: an obsession with tabloid-type news stories, as they miss the big issues completely.

The second thing is that there needs to be a debate about exactly what we want. The world has changed enormously since 1998, and it may be that actually what would be better than a Scottish Six would be a Scottish channel. Also, you have to ask, if there is to be a separate channel, is the BBC the right organisation to be managing it? It is stuck, almost a dinosaur, while the whole world of news debate is being revolutionised. When you think about what the flowering of Scottish written journalism, above all online writing, contributed during the referendum, and how little all that vibrancy debate fed into the BBC. Would it not be much better if a channel was set up autonomously, which could then of course contract for news services with both the BBC and other providers?"

Alan Clements, STV Director of Content

"I know a lot of people are saying the current plan for Scottish Six is all about pleasing the SNP, but I think it’s about more than that. What we have seen in our own STV focus groups around news and our new news app, is that there’s a whole sense of wariness and distrust of the BBC in news terms post the referendum.

The kind of news programme proposed is clearly doable in that Radio Scotland does it every morning. But it’s technically, financially and operationally a lot more difficult. It’s also difficult because there’s not, if BBC focus groups are to be believed, an overwhelming audience demand.

The level of cooperation there would have to be between BBC London and BBC Scotland is going to have to be absolutely unimpeachable and the track record is not good on that. If you think of Newsnight Scotland, Jeremy Paxman was often really playing the game. He would often say something along the lines of 'And now, off to Jockland with you guys and we’re getting on with the real show'.”

Stuart Cosgrove, broadcaster and author

“For as long as I can remember the Scottish Six was something that Scotland's chattering class – especially Labour members supported – as a way of advancing Scottish civic society. It was the dominant idea within the television industry too and for it now to be seen as an SNP idea is plain wrong. Remember it was an issue regularly raised by participants in the constitutional convention which the SNP boycotted, so to say its all the SNP's idea is inaccurate, misleading and probably mischievous. To argue that a nation should not have its own dedicated nightly news service is perverse. It's the norm almost everywhere except Scotland. The potential of the Scottish Six is massive and game-changing for Scottish media.”