JUST as Crewe is a paradise for trainspotters, so Edinburgh during the festival season is nirvana for luvvie-watchers. It is here, in the nation’s capital, that one can observe a wild variety of creative types, from common or garden actors, comedians, and other riff-raff, to the more exotic species of Armani-jeaned, Ray Ban-wearing luvvie to be found at the Edinburgh International Television Festival (EITF).

This week the EITF has been temporary home to such giants of the small screen as Sherlock’s Martin Freeman, Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark, Veep’s Armando Iannucci, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Not content with cheering on the various festivals from the dear seats, the she has appeared on stage in two of them. Like Scottish politics’ answer to Helen Mirren, Victoria Wood and every other national treasure combined, Ms Sturgeon has drawn sell-out crowds at the book bash, where she interviewed Val McDermid, and at the television festival, where she gave the Alternative MacTaggart lecture. Following previous box office smashes such as her SSE Hydro shows, it can surely only be a matter of time before an Equity card arrives on the doormat.

So well-rounded, likeable and downright air-kissable does Ms Sturgeon appear on such occasions that it can easily be forgotten that she is a political big beast whose every move in the public arena is calculated towards advancing her cause. Thus it was with her Alternative MacTaggart lecture, which was almost a masterclass in how politicians can seem to be supporting an institution while doing something else entirely. The object of her attention in this case was the BBC, or as it should be known these days the BBBC, for Beleaguered British Broadcasting Corporation.

The BBC, on which, it should be said, the writer of this column occasionally appears, can barely leave the house these days without being menaced by political sorts. If it is not the Chancellor, George Osborne, demanding, and receiving, money with menaces (picking up the £650 million bill for free TV licences for the over-75s), it is a former First Minister, Alex Salmond, continuing to rumble and spit, Krakatoa-like, over a past quarrel with the corporation’s outgoing political editor, Nick Robinson. With hefty cuts looming, and with its charter up for renewal next year, the BBC does not have its enemies or troubles to seek. So when some nice, sensible politician comes along offering friendship, more channels and better programmes, who would dare do anything but cheer? Quite a few of us, if we have any sense.

On the face of it, Ms Sturgeon was out to offer a hand of friendship. Should the BBC, as part of its charter review, come forward with “a bold proposal for Scotland and the rest of the UK”, it would find itself with a “strong and willing ally” in the form of the Scottish Government. This bolder BBC, in addition to having a federal governing structure in which Scotland’s voice could be heard and heeded, would launch new television and radio channels in Scotland. With so much more home-grown content, the BBC in Scotland would better reflect how the country sees itself.

So to summarise: more support against the big, bad, licence-fee loathing, Sky-loving Tories at Westminster; more jobs for Scotland; and better, more relevant programmes for Scots. What, in the name of Strictly Come Dancing and everything else that is holy, is not to like about any of that?

If the offer had been made six months ago, before the latest round of cuts, and had been backed up by promises of additional funding for programme making and training, nothing. But the BBC is in a financially stretched, politically perilous, and therefore vulnerable place. As such, it needs demanding friends like the Scottish Government the way it needs another series of Eldorado.

The Scottish Government has thought a lot about broadcasting. In Scotland’s Future, the nearest thing to a White Paper on independence, Scotland was promised a new public service broadcaster, the Scottish Broadcasting Service (SBS), paid for, to the tune of £345 million, through the licence fee, cash from BBC commercial profits, and funding from the Scottish Government for Gaelic broadcasting.

As ever with the Scottish Government, everything would stay the same – Doctor Who, Strictly, EastEnders – while changing fundamentally. Well, Scotland said no to independence, and no, by implication, to an SBS. In response, Ms Sturgeon now appears to be arguing for what amounts to a SBS on the cheap. But where is the money to pay for even that?

The First Minister is of the belief that, if creative types think hard enough, a way can be found to serve Scotland better within existing budgets. “A tight financial settlement cannot be a reason not to do things differently,” she said. Funny that: a tight financial settlement is usually the excuse given by the Scottish Government to say its hands are tied. Ah, but here, though, is an opportunity to let a thousand ideas bloom. BBC Alba, pulling in an audience of 700,000 on not very much money, is held up as an example of what can be done. There is a reason for those figures, however, a reason by the name of fitba'. If BBC Scotland was to show even more football it might boost its ratings too, but it would not be giving the majority of viewers what they want.

The plain economic fact is that, if no more is going into the BBC’s budget, and indeed the pot of cash as a whole is to be reduced, the only way to fund new programmes is to cut back on existing ones. In any event, where is the appetite for more Scottish programmes, enough to fill another television and radio channel? Research has shown that Scottish viewers believe the BBC in Scotland could do much better when it comes to news and current affairs. Changes are being made, including, as The Herald’s Phil Miller reports today, the appointment of a new Scotland Editor. But where is the clamour for more distinctly Scottish features? What viewers here, what viewers anywhere, want is quality, not box ticking. One only has to think back to the stushie over Downton Abbey being kept off STV initially to know that Scottish viewers want to watch what they fancy, not what someone thinks is good for them.

That is the fear that sprints up and down the spine on hearing the First Minister’s words on broadcasting reform. Does she want a broadcasting service in Scotland that reflects the needs and wishes of the Scottish people, or the needs and wishes of the Scottish Government? A watchdog of a broadcaster or a poodle? An organisation separate from government, or one that must keep in with its funding masters or else?

Politicians, of many and varying colours, suffer a blind spot when it comes to the BBC. They fail to see that the corporation works for the listener and viewer, not for them. Watching the Scottish Government trying to lean on the BBC, however chummily, makes for no more appealing viewing than observing the Tories at Westminster do it. So do change the channel First Minister, or watch voters turn off in droves.