It arrived on Scottish television screens in a blaze of BBC publicity, with the promise of taking a bold and creative approach to its programmes. 

But now, to add to disappointing viewing figures and complaints of relentless repeats, the new BBC Scotland channel has ignited the ire of perhaps the most sedate of viewers, the nation’s gardeners. 

Moves to slash the number of Beechgrove Garden episodes and switch the hardy perennial from its traditional BBC2 slot to the new BBC Scotland channel has sparked a “pitchfork uprising” among devoted fans. 

Under the plans, The Beechgrove Garden would also disappear from screens for two months at the peak of the gardening season – raising the wrath of gardeners used to watching the Aberdeen garden blossom over summer, accompanied by the presenters’ banter and gentle advice tailored towards Scottish weather and soil conditions.

Gardening fans from across the UK have now flooded the programme’s Facebook page to vent their rage, with many accusing the BBC of neglecting its Scottish viewers. 

Meanwhile, an online petition by 38 Degrees calling for the broadcaster to rethink its plans for the programme has amassed over 3,000 signatures in just a few days.

The Keep Beechgrove Garden on Air petition says: “A show which has celebrated 40 years of popularity and still attracts viewers worldwide should not be removed from our screens during the peak season for gardeners. Their announced gap of almost two months is completely unacceptable.  

“During these worrying times of environmental crises, a programme encouraging gardening, growing, respect for nature, and teaching people to ‘grow their own’ is needed more than ever.”

BBC Scotland has said the cut in the number of episodes will be offset by additional social media activity. 

However, the petition adds: “None of us pay our licence fees for social media. 
“Return this much-loved institution to its rightful place on BBC2 (where viewers can find it) and, most importantly, ensure it’s broadcast every week during late spring and through summer.”

Former Beechgrove Garden presenter Jim McColl, 83, who hosted the programme for more than 40 years, said the changes “betrayed” Scottish viewers and accused BBC bosses of lacking “common sense”.

Meanwhile gardeners signing the petition demanded a rethink. 

One wrote: “A charming half hour programme on real gardening. Not an hour of Monty Don on his acres with his dogs. Ridiculous to stop showing it across the summer season. Shame on the BBC.”

Another commented: “Part of the charm of Beechgrove is watching the progress of the garden throughout the season. It is only 30 minutes a week. It is about time the BBC listen to their audience instead of constantly trying to attract younger viewers with mediocre shows that inevitably fail.”

The change is said to be caused by new “opt-out” arrangements which means Scottish programmes normally shown on BBC2 are now screened on the new BBC Scotland channel. 

However, it is being seen as another thorn in the side of the £32 million station, launched in February with a new series of Still Game to lure in viewers, it has struggled to attract impressive audience figures. 

In April it emerged flagship news show The Nine had seen viewing figures slump from 36,000 on April 4, to a low of just 8980 four days later. 

By the end of April, figures from Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) showed it was recording just 4000 viewers. In contrast, Reporting Scotland regularly attracts upwards of 300,000 viewers. 

BBC Scotland director Donalda Mackinnon has previously insisted that her aim was “success over time” and to achieve a sense of “audience appreciation” for the service across the country.

However one garden centre boss, who did not want to be identified, said the move could have a detrimental impact. “People have grown up with Beechgrove Garden on television. They get a lot of information from the presenters, and that can encourage them to buy certain plants or give them ideas to visit their local garden centre,” he said. “Moving it to BBC Scotland is strange. I have the impression it tends to show not much other than repeats of Gary Tank Commander.”

A BBC spokesman said: “BBC Scotland has the youngest age profile of any BBC TV channel in Scotland, excluding those channels specifically for children. This tells us that our offer is distinctive and the fact content can also be consumed on our online and social media platforms is helping to attract a younger, more socially diverse audience. These are early days for the new service and the indications are positive. Beechgrove is a well-loved part of the new channel’s schedule and the programme also continues to get an airing on BBC Two network. In its new format Beechgrove offers more online and social media content, available at any time.”