Finally we get to the truth about commissioning in Scotland.
Director General Lord Hall of Birkenhead is due to appear at the Scottish Parliament later this month as part of the inquiry into BBC Charter Renewal.
With the SNP and its allies calling for BBC Scotland to be replaced with an independent broadcaster, Lord Hall will be braced for a hostile reception.
However, the most serious claims he must answer relate to a deliberate attempt to “subvert” the BBC’s Home Nations funding quota.
For the past seven years, the Corporation has voluntarily agreed to commission 17 per cent of its network programmes from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, according to Glasgow-based production company Matchlight, BBC bosses have devised a way to get around their own rules – at a cost of up to £50million a year to the Scottish economy.
In an explosive statement to the inquiry, Managing Director David Smith says: “Since 2008 the BBC has deliberately worked with non-Scottish production companies… to undermine and frustrate the purposes of the Scottish quota on an industrial scale.”
He said the practice is known as ‘Lift and Shift’, where London-based companies set up tiny branch offices north of the Border in order to qualify for the Scottish quota.
Since the quota was introduced, TV producers such as 12 Yard, Shed, Lion TV, Mentorn, Victory, IMG and ITV Studios have all opened or expanded Scottish offices.
According to Ofcom, more than 60 per cent of programme hours classed as Scottish by the BBC were made by production companies headquartered outside Scotland.
Mr Smith said: “Without adding 1p to the BBC’s network content budgets the Corporation could add between £30million and £50million to Scotland’s creative economy simply by moving away from Lift and Shift.”
Stewart Maxwell MSP, the SNP convener of the Education and Culture committee, has now written to Lord Hall to ask him to explain the damning allegations when he comes to Edinburgh on January 12.
He writes: “Please respond to points made in a written submission to the Committee from Matchlight regarding how the BBC’s commissioning practice has operated to subvert the spirit of the current Nations quota.
“Specifically, is it appropriate to set 100 per cent of a project’s budget against the Scottish/Nations quota when a lesser share of the overall budget is actually spent in Scotland on that production?”
The inquiry papers also reveal an extraordinary range of demands, warnings and predictions about the future of television north of the Border.
John Archer, chairman of Independent Producers Scotland and a producer with Glasgow’s Hopscotch Films, said: “Up until the mid 1990s the budget for network drama made from Scotland was in Scotland.
“Head of Drama Scotland proposed how it was spent, and commissioning was a discussion. There were many network dramas made in Scotland, telling Scottish stories in Scottish voices. But then the money was centralised (ie went to London). TV drama from Scotland has been in decline ever since.”
Dramas produced by BBC Scotland before the mid 1990s include Tutti Frutti, which launched the careers of Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson; The Crow Road, with Joseph McFadden, Peter Capaldi and Dougray Scott; the award-winning Just Another Saturday, with Jon Morrison and Billy Connolly; Takin’ Over The Asylum, which introduced viewers to a young David Tennant; and Hamish McBeth, with Robert Carlyle.
Mr Archer is one of several senior figures backing the SNP’s demand for an independent Scottish BBC, although he admits that viewers would “probably have to switch to BBC England to watch Eastenders”.
He also predicts that the relative success of Outlander, which has been popular in the USA, could lead to a golden age of historical adventures set and made in Scotland.
He writes: “Alongside the contemporary stories, the new genre of Scottish historical ‘westerns’ with Tartan, claymore, dirk and pistol has come of age.”
The inquiry, which will open at Holyrood on Tuesday, will even hear calls for BBC Scotland to cancel its River City soap opera.
The Scottish Media and Communication Association said: “Some [members] thought that BBC drama production is poor, because River City takes up most of the drama budget, yet it is only shown in Scotland.
“With the same resources original plays could have been commissioned and some believe that the decision to invest all drama resources in River City was wrong.”
The BBC submission highlights popular and award-winning Scottish programmes such as Katie Morag, Shetland and Stonemouth, but acknowledges that more can be done.
It states: “However, popular as such programmes may be, the BBC knows there is a growing need to see the full diversity of the UK’s cultures and communities better reflected on screen and on air.”