Stuart Cosgrove is guiding me through the sort of CV that makes yours look like a laggard’s. From a state comprehensive school in Perth it shimmies through England’s northern soul scene where he would become one of its noted chroniclers at a time when most of the rest of us were first trying to solicit an awkward kiss to Disco Inferno. From then, it was a gig at the New Musical Express as its influential American Editor.

This would form the gateway to Channel Four in London as a commissioning editor, tasked with chivvying out the sort of jaggy drama and documentaries that the BBC and ITV would have considered a little too challenging.

At various points he seemed destined to be one of those global Scots you occasionally hear about who run mega media and business franchises and get their pictures taken in a corporate box with Elon Musk watching a Rod Stewart concert in Tokyo.

At these times though, the yearning to be in Scotland outbid them all. He’s reluctant to call it homesickness and it certainly can’t have been small town fearfulness just as the Big Time called. This is a chap who as a schoolboy would hitch-hike to the north of England to catch one of those northern soul all-nighters.

The Herald: A northern soul night in BradfordA northern soul night in Bradford (Image: free)

Rather it was rooted in his identity and in the belief that you didn’t need to leave Scotland to make your voice heard across the planet. Instead, it seemed he’d forsaken it so that he could present a Saturday lunchtime football show with Tam Cowan, discussing the etymology of terracing chants or exchanging tasting notes about club pies. When his son Jack was born in London there was ample opportunity to make a life for him there: a good school in a leafy neighbourhood surrounded by New Labour’s nouveau urban aristocracy.

“My hardest years were the 20 I spent away from Scotland. It felt deeper than homesickness. I felt I was disconnected from what was going on in Scotland at a very exciting time in our nation’s history. The emergence of the new parliament and the socio-political changes that were happening in Scotland made it seem our time had come. And when Jack was born, I felt I would be denying him his right to be Scottish if we stayed in London.”

Something similar had occurred a few years previously when opportunities came his way to live and work in America when he was working for NME. On that occasion it was the call of his beloved St Johnstone that pulled him back. The Saints were having a helluva time and he felt he had to be with them in their time of need.

“This was St Johnstone’s lowest ever moment,” he recalls. “During one period we were officially the worst team in Britain. And yet, when I’d left Perth as a teenager it was the weekend after we’d beaten Hamburg 3-0. I was finding it very hard to stay in touch. My mum would send me a wrapped up copy of The Perthshire Advertiser where I would read that we’d been beaten by Clyde. It was then the only source of news and I felt helpless and marooned.”

Yet, it was only after he’d returned to Scotland and stepped down from Channel Four that he was able to embark on the work which you sense is his greatest source of pride and which will stand as his defining legacy. At a time when others would have been choosing between the golf course and the allotment, Cosgrove was embarking on an astonishing period of productivity.

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Since 2016 he’s written six books chronicling the influence of Northern Soul as well as the black social history of 1960s America told through its music and the places that produced it and where it changed lives. The titles are symphonic: Detroit 67: the Year That Changed Soul; Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul; Cassis X: A Legend in the Making; Hey America: The Epic Story of Black Music and the White House.

In choosing to answer the call of Scotland and to confer an ancient birth-right on his baby son, Cosgrove took us on a journey that started in the sweaty dance emporiums of Barnsley and moved towards the social revolution that swept beyond the back streets of Harlem. He believes this lust for knowledge and experiences in the world’s most intense places is rooted in the robust, outward-facing education you could get in a Scottish comprehensive school.

Scotland’s state secondary schools were then among the very best you could find anywhere in the world. I know we can get a bit dewy-eyed about this, but I happen to think it’s true.

“When I attended university in England it became evident that a difference existed between the Scottish approach to the school syllabus and what they did in England. The difference was to do with specialism versus generalism. In Scotland you were doing five Highers across a broad spectrum of subjects, whereas in England there was a much narrower focus.

“It meant I felt able to hold my own in any company. This confidence came from having had access to a more rounded education. It was very enabling.”

The day before our meeting BBC Scotland announced it was axing its main news programme The Nine as well as the entertainment Show, The Edit and the weekly news review, Seven Days. In any other sector this would be regarded as a wholesale and manifest failure at managerial and executive levels.

The Herald: BBC Scotland headquartersBBC Scotland headquarters (Image: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

“There’s a huge question about the future of broadcasting in Scotland and, of course, I’m mindful of job retention and trying to protect as many jobs as you can. However, the world has changed out of recognition. One thing Channel Four ushered in and which was key to its success was the publisher/broadcaster model now deployed by Netflix and the best streaming platforms. It relies on a small core of staffers outsourcing creativity to the independent production sector. The BBC meanwhile remains largely as it was in the 1970s, with its retention of a large staff base.

"The line that jumped out at me when the Scotland channel changes were announced was that “There will be no job losses”. I found that extraordinary. This could have been an opportunity to do something entirely different.”

He talks about the curse of The One Show and how it channelled dull uniformity when the Scotland channel launched. “Suddenly, we’ve got The Edit and The Nine. ‘I’m watching The Nine tonight’. That’s not how real people speak.

“And that slot, which was chosen by London, was always going to face challenges. It kills your night. You need to play your news out at 6-7pm and then let your dramas and comedies drive your schedule. Putting out a news bulletin at 9pm means that you have to start again at 10pm trying to build an audience, by which time people are thinking about bed. Why should Scotland be saddled with those handicaps?”

Nor does he think that anyone at BBC’s Pacific Quay headquarters has the stomach or desire to stand up for proper funding for Scotland when the big decisions about Scottish output are still being made in London.

The Herald: Scotland have qualified for this summer’s EurosScotland have qualified for this summer’s Euros (Image: free)

“Who’s arguing for the funding in London? BBC Scotland bosses aren’t very assertive in terms of fighting for funding. They’re made to jump through several hoops when they travel to London. And wouldn’t it be great if we could apply the Barnett consequentials to Scottish broadcasting?

“Scotland and England have both qualified for this summer’s Euros. So, let’s take a look at the overall BBC budget and see if Scotland gets 8.8% of it.” We both laugh bitterly. “BBC Scotland will never ever see a budget,” he says. “They’ll get a little bit of extra support and this of course militates against innovation.”

I can’t leave without discussing the quest for the Scottish Six, the legend which has driven Scotland’s cultural elites out of their minds with unrequited desire.

“It now feels like an idea from a different era,” says Cosgrove. “That said, what’s not to like about a story where, as Donald Trump prepares to return to the White House, we discuss his property empire in Scotland. It’s an international story with a Scottish angle.

“All of the main global news stories right now have uniquely Scottish angles: the Westminster debate on Gaza; nuclear submarine testing; Ukraine. It’s not parochial to do this.”