A BRIEF business news story, "STV overtakes BBC1 for Scottish viewing" (The Herald, April 30) may not have turned too many heads, but even five years ago, such a headline would have been unimaginable.

It’s hardly an equal fight between the country’s two pre-eminent TV broadcasters. We have STV, a channel reliant entirely on commercial revenues – advertising and sponsorship – both reduced since the financial crash of 2008 and crashing through the floor following the Covid-19 pandemic. Then there is the BBC, inured and protected from the harsh financial constraints of the real world, enjoying guaranteed income from the compulsory licence fee, generously topped-up by the corporation’s ability and willingness to also operate freely in the commercial market through its various spin-off enterprises.

Given the 12 per cent increase in linear viewing and a 73% uplift online, STV – very much the David versus the corporation’s Goliath – is I believe, showing the BBC up as a bloated, self-serving monolithic pillar of the UK establishment.

Given its comparative resources and political clout, the corporation really should be hanging its head in shame at falling behind STV, which, unlike BBC1 Scotland does not even have a Scotland-wide footprint, unavailable for example to potential viewers in the Borders.

For this viewer at least, there are two principal reasons why I now choose STV over BBC1 in like-for-like programming, especially news and current affairs.

First, the key issue of trust – as was clear (to me at least) from the BBC1 Scotland and STV leaders’ debates – where the latter’s Political Editor Colin Mackay got seriously stuck in on the viewer’s behalf without fear or favour; meanwhile, his counterpart, the BBC’s Scotland Editor Sarah Smith, to my mind created an impression that she was as much a central participant in proceedings as the five party leaders.

Secondly, I believe STV does the limited programming sectors it covers extremely well, whereas the BBC delivers mediocrity through attempting to do too many things (such as four variants of Radio 1) often not terribly well.

STV – which unlike the BBC I have a choice in contributing to financially – it seems is successfully serving the needs and aspirations of its viewers irrespective of their politics. They in turn are rewarding the station with their loyalty, whilst the BBC appears more intent on satisfying itself and its political masters in London and is haemorrhaging Scottish viewers as a consequence.

Mike Wilson, Longniddry.


YOUR article on farmers' and other local support for a Galloway National Park ("Farmers back plans for Galloway to become newest National Park", The Herald, April 30) highlights to me how central and eastern Scotland appear to get more promotion and funding on environmental projects than the west of the country, Galloway in particular.

For the Scottish Government to raise concerns that as Galloway is already a Forest Park, Dark Sky Park and Unesco Biosphere, forming a new National Park would have increased cost implications is a nonsense. Surely rolling the three classifications together, and including the addition of south and east Ayrshire to the mix, would give cost savings on the promotion on a new enlarged area instead.

National park status promotes and enhances the national and cultural heritage of the area, combined with sustainable economic and social development. A double-edged sword concern however could also raise its head; as for many years the A88 and A75 trunk roads have been in dire need of upgrading with them being Scotland's two main access routes for freight and tourist traffic to and from Northern Ireland. Forget thoughts of an Irish tunnel – the existing ferry services are perfectly adequate – and put finances into the trunk roads and national park instead; they would mutually benefit each other, and no doubt combined, cost less.

George Dale, Beith.


WITH the political parties’ election manifestos all published, part-time students have been a missed opportunity. The parties’ perspectives on further and higher education range have been varied but with a consistent focus on the issue of tuition fees and financial support for full-time students. We have repeatedly heard how we will need to do things differently post-pandemic, yet the same approaches to FE and HE are being proposed.

To achieve an inclusive economic recovery where people can re-skill and/or up-skill as their circumstances require, we cannot continue to focus on traditional models. That will not deliver the agile, flexible higher education provision with shorter courses and modules focussed on skills that the Scottish economy needs when so many sectors have been massively impacted by the pandemic and many fellow Scots can’t even yet see light at the end of the tunnel.

We need to recognise that people enter higher education at different stages of their lives and that they balance work with study, caring responsibilities, or other commitments. Everyone’s learner journey should be flexible to allow them to personalise their higher education experience, recognising the diversity of learners and their needs in Scotland. The Open University’s mission is to support students, whatever their age and regardless or prior qualifications, who do not follow a single linear learner journey from leaving school and moving straight away into full-time university.

Barriers to part-time study need to be removed so all of Scotland’s citizens play a valued and valuable part in Scotland’s growth. Skills+ Scotland, our prospectus for the next Scottish Parliament, sets out what we believe needs to be done over the lifetime of the next parliament to build an inclusive economic recovery. We look forward to working on a cross-party basis to make that a reality.

Susan Stewart, Director, The Open University in Scotland, Edinburgh.