SCOTTISH Labour has demanded an urgent meeting with the head of BBC Scotland over what it calls Nicola Sturgeon’s “increasingly party political” briefings on coronavirus.

The party claimed they were "in breach of the Charter of the BBC".

The Scottish Tories also accused Ms Sturgeon of using the briefings, which attract 275,000 viewers across two TV channels, to “promote SNP policy and stir up resentment against the UK Government”.

Initially held each day, the Scottish Government briefings were recently cut back to three per week, but are expected to increase when schools return from August 11.

Labour complained earlier this month to Donalda MacKinnon, the BBC’s director in Scotland, that the First Minister was using the unprecedented airtime to score political points.

Scottish Labour deputy Jackie Baillie told Ms MacKinnon the shift in content made it a “hugely inappropriate use of public money” ten 10 months from a Hoyrood election.

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The Dumbartshire MSP said she felt very strongly that the briefings ”cannot be allowed to continue in their current format”. 

In recent weeks, economy secretary Fiona Hyslop has also appeared in the briefings to announce funding measures for Scottish businesses and the arts.

Ms Sturgeon, invariably at the prompting of the media covering the briefings, has also commented on Boris Johnson, the Union, independence and Russian disinformation.

Support for independence has rise to 54 per cent since the briefings began, and Ms Sturgeon’s personal approval ratings have soared.

In reply to Labour, Ms MacKinnon last week said the BBC also broadcast UK Government and Welsh First Minister’s daily briefings, and the pandemic remained “far from over”.

Refusing Ms Baillie’s demand, she said: “It is clear that information and advice from the Scottish Government and from the health authorities, necessarily, continues to evolve and, in such circumstances, it it important that we continue to provide public access to the Government briefings.” 

Scottish Labour peer George Foulkes said the response was “totally unsatisfactory” and has now written back to the BBC demanding a meeting with Ms MacKinnon.

In a letter to Luke McCullough, BBC Scotland’s Parliamentary & Corporate Affairs Manager, Lord Foulkes said he, Ms Baillie and Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray had all written to the corporation “expressing concern” about the First Minister’s televised briefings.

Writing in his capacity as chair of the Scottish Group of the Parliamentary Labour Party, he said: “These briefings, which are meant to be for providing information to the public about the pandemic, have become increasingly party political with no opportunity for the right of reply for Opposition parties in Scotland.

“In the past week for example Fiona Hyslop used the briefing to announce grants in the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and the Northern and Western Isles and the First Minister used the briefing to comment critically on the visit to Scotland by the Prime Minister.

“All of this and more are clearly outwith the purpose of the briefings and in breach of the Charter of the BBC.”

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He said the reply to Ms Baillie last week was one “which we all find totally unsatisfactory”.

He concluded: “Accordingly I am writing to seek an urgent meeting with Donalda where the three of us can express our concerns directly.” 

Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw also weighed into the row, saying the briefings had become “increasingly redundant” and were being used by Mr Sturgeon to promote the SNP.

He said: “Everyone understood the need for these daily briefings when the outbreak happened, and in the fast-moving months that followed.

“But they’ve become increasingly redundant, and are developing into a regular opportunity for Nicola Sturgeon to promote SNP policy and stir up resentment towards the UK Government.

“The BBC needs to stop pretending there is justification for unquestioningly screening what are rapidly becoming SNP party political broadcasts.”

A BBC Scotland spokesman said: “We are broadcasting Scottish Government briefings on the pandemic ad the easing of lockdown because these are matters of significant public interest.

“While cases of infection may be decreasing from their peak during the pandemic, there remains a valid editorial justification for reporting public health information and asking questions on new developments, such as the recent clusters in the Borders and Lanarkshire.

“The briefings in Scotland are covered by BBC one - which has also been the case when the UK and Welsh governments have held briefings.

“Viewing figures indicate there is a continuing audience need and appetite for information on the crisis, with an average daily combined audience of 275,000 for the briefings on both BBC One Scotland and the BBC Scotland channel.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Daily media briefings continue to be the most used source of information about the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland and are used to disseminate the latest public health guidance as well as essential information about services and support for people and the economy.

“The briefings also provide an opportunity for rigorous scrutiny from the media with 15 to 20 journalists participating every day.”