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BBC unveils plans for new dedicated Scottish channel

The BBC is to create a new Scottish channel as part of plans which will see the "biggest single investment" in the corporation north of the border for more than 20 years.

While the broadcaster has rejected the idea of a so-called Scottish Six news programme, the new channel - which will be on air every evening - will include an hour-long news programme, combining Scottish, UK and international news, at 9pm on weekdays.

The BBC is investing £19 million a year for the three years up to March 2019 to fund the BBC Scotland channel, which will be available on digital services such as Freeview and Sky as well as online and via the iPlayer.

BBC Scotland is due to begin broadcasting from autumn 2018 and the hour-long news show, which will be edited and presented in Scotland, will lead to the creation of 80 new journalist posts at the BBC.

The corporation also expects to increase the amount it spends in Scotland making programmes for a UK audience by an average of £20 million a year in the next three years, up from about £65 million in 2015-16.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: "All of this combined amounts to the biggest single investment by the BBC in broadcast content in Scotland in over 20 years.

"This will be a huge boost for BBC Scotland and for the Scottish creative industries."

On the issue of the "Scottish six" - an hour-long news bulletin which would replace the existing UK news programme at 6pm and the Scottish bulletin at 6.30pm - the BBC said its current UK-wide show had "performed strongly in Scotland in recent years".

Meanwhile, the new hour-long bulletin on BBC Scotland will offer viewers "choice and quality", the broadcaster said.

STV has already announced plans for its own flagship hour-long news programme to begin this year.

Its director of channels Bobby Hain said: "STV News Tonight is a key part of STV's commitment to engaging news and current affairs and will be broadcast live, weeknights at 7pm with new news anchor Halla Mohieddeen.

"We welcome the BBC's enhanced commitment to the Scottish creative industries."

Lord Hall, who unveiled the investment plans to BBC Scotland staff at Pacific Quay in Glasgow, also stressed the need to "do more" for the devolved parts of the UK.

Just days before the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, up to 1,000 Yes supporters staged a demonstration outside the corporation's Glasgow base, protesting about "biased" coverage of the issue.

Former first minister Alex Salmond has also described the BBC's coverage of the referendum as a "disgrace".

The SNP wanted to see a Scottish six programme on the BBC but Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the new channel announcement on Twitter.

She wrote: "Commitments to new investment and 80 additional jobs for journalists long overdue and very positive.

"It doesn't deliver everything that everyone wanted - e.g. no Scottish 6 disappointing - but progress and hopefully sign of new thinking."

Scotland's other political parties welcomed the investment.

Lord Hall said: "We know that viewers in Scotland love BBC television, but we also know that they want us to better-reflect their lives and better-reflect modern Scotland.

"It is vital that we get this right."

The director general continued: "The best way of achieving that is a dedicated channel for Scotland.

"It's a channel that will be bold, creative and ambitious, with a brand-new Scotland-edited international news programme at its heart.

"The additional investment in Scottish drama and factual programming rightly recognises both the need to do more across our output and the huge pool of talent available in Scotland.

"We do make great programmes here, such as Shetland, Britain's Ancient Capital - Secrets of Orkney, Two Doors Down and the brilliant Still Game - but we do need to do more."

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