MANY of those who support the principle of independence for Scotland will be losing little sleep over the predicament in which the embattled BBC Scotland currently finds itself. They are making a big mistake.

The debate over proposals for a new hour-long 6pm news programme edited in Scotland is vitally important in that such a broadcast could have a crucial effect on the way in which this nation views itself, which of course is why Unionists loathe the very notion.

It’s important not because it’s radical – in fact it’s just about the most timid response to audience dissatisfaction the corporation could have been expected to suggest.

And make no mistake, there is audience dissatisfaction.

Let’s counter all the claims that most of us think BBC Scotland’s news coverage is just hunky dory. The corporation’s own most recent audience research found that a narrow majority of Scottish viewers did not believe its Scottish news coverage accurately reflected the country in which they live.

Scotland was the only part of the United Kingdom in which a majority of the population expressed that view. Any broadcasting organisation would have a duty to take such a viewers’ verdict seriously. Far from capitulating to “pressure from the nationalist government”, the BBC is simply responding to the expressed unhappiness of its own viewers. If the Scottish Government support such action it is right to do so.

A Daily Mail survey yesterday claimed that just 36 per cent of Scots were in favour of the 6pm news programme, although given the paper’s continual depictions of the programme as parochial crap, it’s surprising it gained even that support.

In the storm which has blown up over the proposed 6pm news programme, the BBC’s position is a mirror image of Scotland’s own position within the UK.

The corporation has a certain, rigidly proscribed autonomy to operate within the larger organisation, but that autonomy was granted by the BBC executive and is quickly threatened whenever there is the slightest suggestion that its limits have been breached.

Consider how the attacks on the “Scottish Six” echo the arguments articulated against independence. It’s “unnecessary because the status quo is fine”; it’s “parochial and inward-looking” because anything Scottish is automatically judged to be less important than virtually anything else; it’s doomed to fail because Scottish journalists are not as talented as those from elsewhere in the UK – and those who have made their careers in Scotland rather than London are the least talented of the lot. If those same arguments had been levelled against Scottish health workers, or teachers, or politicians, there would have been an outcry, particularly from those who support independence.

But because there is general unhappiness with the BBC coverage of the referendum and suspicion of its attitude towards the SNP, the response has been generally muted.

Because the Reporting Scotland “add on” to the national news broadcast is held in low regard, those on both sides of the independence debate join together in an almost unique example of agreement to argue that the last thing Scotland needs is more of the same.

The reality is that the Scottish Six proposal is the essential first step in destroying the Reporting Scotland model. The main reason Reporting Scotland is parochially obsessed with courts, crime, and small-scale non-stories is that so many of the major stories are the prerogative of the London staff.

When Scottish stories are deemed important enough for the national broadcast the same reports are then bafflingly repeated often word for word on Reporting Scotland.

And when the stories are really important (for instance the last few weeks of the referendum campaign), they are passed to London-based staff to handle. With that attitude within the BBC the wonder is not that its Scottish output is parochial and limited but that so many of those working in Scotland retain any ambition and enthusiasm.

Let’s nail another myth: no one in their right senses is suggesting that the Scottish Six would feature only Scottish news. But it would give important Scottish stories their proper place in bulletins which would also feature international news and stories from Westminster and elsewhere in the UK.

That wouldn’t mean important developments in Syria being downplayed in favour of a break-in at Bearsden. It would mean that stories such as the junior doctor disputes in England and Wales would be unlikely to be the lead story of a 6pm news programme edited in Scotland.

Of course faith in the BBC management ability to make such calls is not high, which brings us to to the difficult question of BBC bias and specifically bias against the case for Scottish independence.

Those who protested outside the BBC’s Glasgow headquarters were a very small majority but in my experience a great many independence supporters believe to a greater or lesser extent that the corporation did not report the referendum fairly.

The BBC management’s official line – to simply dismiss out of hand sincerely held views without even the pretence of serious consideration – breeds resentment among those who believe the evidence of their own eyes is being ignored.

Add to that an anger within the independence movement at the overwhelming imbalance in the newspaper industry against a Yes vote in the referendum and against a hugely popular SNP Government. The result is a dangerous disconnect between Scotland’s media and a good percentage of the country which has at some point to be discussed seriously.

Obviously, the two newspapers I edited until last September both supported independence but I’m not arguing that all Scottish newspapers should do so. In fact, I’d argue that would be no healthier than the situation which would have existed in September 2014 had the Sunday Herald not declared itself in favour of Yes – a situation which would have seen every newspaper in Scotland either opposed to independence or on the fence.

A healthy nation needs a diverse media to accurately reflect the range of opinions within its borders. The imbalance within the Scottish media is wrongly poisoning minds against the trade of journalism, which is supposed to challenge those in power because if it doesn’t who will?

And that same imbalance is blinding many of us to the fact that the staff of BBC Scotland are victims of the same power structure which makes it more difficult for Scotland to reach its full potential.

Of course such a change could go wrong and we may feel let down. But just maybe it will be the first step in an exciting and essential rebirth.Without it, nothing will improve.