DURING the long referendum campaign it became fashionable to criticise the BBC, mostly for what was called “bias”.

Whenever a Nationalist politician or adviser levelled this charge in conversation I would ask if they could provide two or three specific examples.

One ministerial aide told me some vox-pops on Sauchiehall Street had been asked in a “leading” way, while an MP dispensed with empirical evidence altogether and simply told me that lots of Scots no longer trusted Auntie to cover Scottish politics in an impartial fashion.

That, depressingly, is undoubtedly true, although it doesn’t necessarily mean the perception is an accurate one, for relentless bashing of a media outlet will inevitably diminish trust. Indeed, that was probably the broader political goal: delegitimisation.

Thus the belief that the BBC exists to frustrate Scotland’s constitutional ambitions are now pretty widespread. One new SNP MP, Paul Monaghan, regularly tweets attacks on the BBC, although he’s a moderate compared with G. A. Ponsonby, author of the polemical book London Calling, subtitled “How the BBC Stole the Referendum”.

But as This New Noise, a new history of the BBC by the journalist Charlotte Higgins, makes clear, the Corporation has come under political attack – usually dressed up as concern about “bias” – from almost the moment it was conceived back in the 1920s.

Since May, meanwhile, an unholy alliance comprising the Conservatives and SNP has made it crystal clear that there will be no let up. New Culture Secretary John Whittingdale wants comprehensive reform while the Scottish Government has renewed its call for devolution (i.e. control) of broadcasting in Scotland.

Neither have the BBC’s best interests at heart. Far from being genuinely concerned about output and editorial standards, Tories and Nationalists have never liked the Beeb because to them it represents an intolerable challenge to their political goals, providing a platform for critics of everything from welfare cuts to independence.

The BBC, of course, is an independent corporation ostensibly free from government control, but the intimidation (for lack of a better word) occurs indirectly. The current Royal Charter, which provides Auntie’s constitutional basis, expires at the end of next year, and a majority Conservative government is clearly determined to flex its muscles over the next eighteen months.

If the Scottish Government were to gain control of broadcasting, meanwhile, that process would most likely be replicated north of the border, thus enabling ministers in Edinburgh to dictate terms and conditions ahead of each Scottish Charter renewal. Somehow I find it unlikely that this would involve polite chats about the number of hours devoted to curling.

In a few weeks the First Minister is expected to set out (at the Edinburgh International Television Festival) her government’s vision for the future of BBC Scotland should broadcasting be devolved. To be fair, Nicola Sturgeon has thus far avoided the BBC-baiting beloved of her predecessor; where Alex Salmond delighted in turning outgoing UK political editor Nick Robinson into a Nationalist bogeyman, Ms Sturgeon has made a point of taking him out for dinner.

As usual, the SNP’s plans for a Scottish Broadcasting Corporation, beyond gaining indirect control, are half-baked, clearer about what they’re against (the BBC) than what they’re for. Mr Whittingdale, meanwhile, has been the opposite of vague, setting out a blueprint for a 21st-century public broadcaster that could leave the Corporation a shadow of its 20th-century self.

The BBC, of course, is not perfect, and for what it’s worth some of the Culture Secretary’s observations seem to me legitimate: one doesn’t have to be a Conservative to find the sheer extent of its reach (until 2013 the BBC owned Lonely Planet) a bit much. There are things the BBC should do and do well, and others where a bit of consolidation would do no harm whatsoever.

As this newspaper reported on Saturday, it seems executives in London agree with a recent report from the Audience Council that BBC Scotland ought to be given “greater authority and resources to commission programmes for Scotland audiences”. This was a puzzling conclusion given that it had itself concluded the problem was the “Anglified” perspective of network programming rather than output from Pacific Quay.

One could be forgiven for concluding that New Broadcasting House simply wants to devolve the problem away, out of sight (obviously London-based executives don’t use iPlayer) and therefore out of mind. That would probably suit the Scottish Government, but quite how it would serve to improve network coverage of Scottish politics is beyond me.

Surely the BBC ought to consider its network output rather fundamental to its history (it was founded, after all, by a Scot), traditions and public service ethos. Simply devolving more and more control mirrors the unimaginative approach of Westminster to Scotland in general. Unwittingly, both might end up killing the very thing they love – death by devolution.

The finding that only 48 per cent of Scots think the BBC is good at representing their life in news and current affairs content, meanwhile, appears to vindicate Nationalist criticisms that it’s out of touch and “biased”, but looking at it another way I can’t help feeling that to satisfy nearly half such a diverse population isn’t bad going. After all, the comparable figure was 55 per cent in Wales and 61 per cent in England and Northern Ireland, hardly a yawning chasm in public perception.

Another regular Nationalist criticism, that of under-funding, relies on Mickey Mouse statistics; during and after the referendum the SNP has frequently pointed out that BBC Scotland’s annual budget is less than that raised from the licence fee north of the border, but of course that conveniently omits the Scottish share of (considerable) network expenditure. Now if the SNP genuinely believes Scots would be prepared to live without non-Scottish output then so be it, but that, I suspect, would represent rather too much “independence” for the majority of viewers and listeners.

As First Minister, Alex Salmond seemed comfortable with a radically different broadcasting apparatus in the event of independence, making it clear he was relaxed at the prospect of a public/private hybrid partly funded by advertising. Ireland’s RTE, he said, was a potential model, although it’d be hard to find anyone (including at RTE) who thinks that would possibly be a good idea.

To reiterate, the BBC isn’t perfect, large bureaucratic organisations rarely are, but its faults – and they’re rarely the faults identified by politicians – pale into insignificance when set alongside its contribution to the cultural fabric of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.

In all of this there are many questions worth asking: what is the BBC for? Should it entertain as well as inform? Should it be small and beautiful rather than large and ungainly? Few of those, however, stand any chance of being adequately addressed in the midst of political power grabs.