AN IN-DEPTH inquiry into why BBC Scotland rejected a dedicated Scottish Six hour-long news programme is to be launched by MPs.

The Commons Scottish Affairs Committee is to begin its probe later in the spring amid plans to cross-examine the BBC’s Director General Lord Hall and other senior executives.

It is thought Ken MacQuarrie, director of the Nations and Regions at the corporation, and director of BBC Scotland Donalda MacKinnon will also give evidence and reveal more about plans for a new £30 million Scottish digital channel.

“Given the proposal for this new digital channel, We wanted to examine the possibilities for developing the skills and infrastructure in Scottish broadcasting,” explained Pete Wishart, the SNP MP for Perth, who chairs the committee.

“This may be a great opportunity and talk of 80 new journalist jobs is immensely positive. We had Ken MacQuarrie before us previously and there was never any suggestion that something like this was in the offing. So we want to talk it through.”

Mr Wishart added: “We also want to ask the BBC executives why this format was chosen over a Scottish Six.”

Last August, MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee urged the BBC to press ahead with a Scottish Six news programme made and presented entirely from Scotland as the corporation considered changes under its Charter Review.

BBC Scotland produced pilots for the programme, which could have replaced Reporting Scotland and the Six O’Clock News in Scotland. At the time, the corporation said it was “exploring a number of possible formats”.

The issue of a Scottish Six has been a bone of contention and has been embroiled in political skirmishing between Unionists and Nationalists; previous proposals for a dedicated hour-long Scottish news programme were ruled out in 2006.

When the Culture Committee made its recommendation last year, one of its members, the SNP’s John Nicolson, welcomed the move, saying: “Too often network news programmes transmitted from London cover purely English stories – for instance on health, justice or education – which do not reflect or report the different situations across the UK post-devolution.”

The MP for East Dunbartonshire added: “The BBC has already acknowledged that there is dissatisfaction with this situation. A broader remit for BBC Scotland television news would drive up standards, increase job opportunities for journalists here in Scotland and build audiences.”

But Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservatives’ Culture spokesman, stressed how many Scots were happy with the current programming.

“Nationalists will very much see this as an opportunity to shove propaganda down the throats of a dinner-time viewing public north of the Border,” he said.

In February, Lord Hall unexpectedly announced that, instead of meeting the calls for a Scottish Six, the corporation was to launch a completely new digital channel for Scotland from the autumn of 2018. The channel will have an annual budget of £30 million.

It would be broadcast from 7pm to midnight every day and would be available on the iPlayer and in HD in Scotland and across the UK. Instead of a Scottish Six, the plans include an hour-long news programme, edited and presented from Scotland, at 9pm. It has already been dubbed the “Scottish Nine”. The move is the largest single investment in broadcast content in Scotland for more than 20 years.

A BBC Scotland spokesman said: “BBC executives have previously appeared before the Scottish Affairs Committee, as they have before Holyrood’s Culture Committee.

“We will be happy to attend again to outline our plans for a new TV channel and, alongside 80 new journalism jobs, the introduction of a new hour-long integrated television news service for Scotland.”