By a Newsnet reporter
The NUJ Scottish Organiser has told BBC management it will be almost impossible to find enough volunteers for redundancy within the short time frame following the announcement of 35 job losses across Scotland.
At a meeting to discuss the scale of the latest cuts Paul Holleran said unless redundancy terms were improved he could not see the figures being reached before the end of September.
Mr Holleran, NUJ Scottish organiser said: "While we knew cuts were coming I think it would be no exaggeration to state that people in radio and the newsroom in particular were shocked at the large numbers affected.
At a time when BBC Scotland should be getting more resources to deal with the growing demand for political debate around the independence referendum and what kind of a future we want for Scotland then these cuts are forced through because of the bad deal over the licence fee settlement.
“They are finding it difficult to produce programmes with the current straffing levels and only then with a lot of good will from our members. At the moment I am pessimistic about these cuts happening without conflict but we will be meeting management again soon to hear their proposals and that will give us a clearer picture."
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said: "The cuts proposed in Scotland will damage the BBC. Under the so-called Delivering Quality First programme, the BBC must find 20 per cent cuts and the Corportation plan to axe thousands of jobs, while the licence fee remains frozen until 2017.
“At the same time the BBC must take on extra £340 million in spending responsibilities, including the funding of the World Service, local TV and the rollout of fast broadband. The NUJ are calling on the BBC to defend quality journalism, improve the licence fee settlement and avoid compulsory redundancies."
The announcement, which was made today, was also condemned by Pete Wishart MP who called it a "devastating blow" for output in news and current affairs across Scotland.
The latest losses under the ‘Delivering Quality First’ initiative were announced in an email to staff from BBC Scotland Director Ken MacQuarrie.
They include eight jobs in radio, two in the Gaelic department, 17 in news and current affairs, six in marketing and communications and two in new media. Output from BBC Highlands will be drastically affected, losing half its reporting staff at Inverness.
With the need for cutbacks deriving from Westminster decisions on BBC funding, Mr Wishart said these further losses were evidence of the need for broadcasting powers to be devolved to the Scottish Government to ensure plurality and choice in Scotland.
Mr Wishart said: “The news of these planned job losses at BBC Scotland will cause great stress and uncertainty to the staff affected and I hope even at this late stage can be reconsidered.
“This will have a massive impact on news and current affairs provision in Scotland, cutting output from professional journalists across Scotland.”
The jobs cut announcement comes less than a week after First Minister Alex Salmond described the Westminster controlled framework for broadcasting in Scotland “outdated”. Mr Salmond insisted that, regardless of the outcome of the independence referendum, that control over broadcasting should be moved from London to Edinburgh.
Mr Wishart added: “The need to make such devastating cuts has been driven by license fee decisions made by a Westminster government whose policy continues to short-change Scotland. The outdated broadcasting framework never kept up with the realities of devolution, but now it is falling even further behind the curve of the constitutional debate.”
The SNP MP called the decision to cut staff at a time when Scotland is in the middle of an unprecedented constitutional debate “astonishing” and continued:
“Scottish television viewers deserve balanced, high quality and impartial journalism from right across the country but these losses are bound to limit the capabilities of BBC Scotland, especially beyond the central belt.
“This underlines why control of broadcasting should be devolved to the Scottish government and the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government is committed to maintaining high quality public service broadcasting in Scotland, but we have been short changed for too long by the current set-up.
“The UK Government should act urgently to transfer powers over broadcasting to Edinburgh to ensure high quality, plural output which better reflects all Scottish social, cultural and political perspectives.”
In the internal email, BBC Scotland controller Ken MacQuarrie confirmed compulsory redundancies could not be ruled out, but pledged to try to avoid such measures wherever possible.
Addressing concerns over the ability of BBC Scotland to provide high quality, objective journalism and programming Mr MacQuarrie said:
“Our aim remains to provide high quality and distinctive programmes, content and services for audiences in Scotland and in the rest of the UK. Our proposals will ensure that we deliver those aims and respond to the demands of an ever-changing industry.
"This story of sustainable growth, opportunity and skills development will continue over the period up until Charter Renewal."
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