SHE is the first woman to hold the most powerful broadcasting job in Scotland – and Donalda MacKinnon is relishing the challenge that comes with being director of BBC Scotland.

“I am the first woman in this job and it is a very important role. I take that very seriously indeed. I think it’s a great privilege but it’s also a major responsibility,” she told The National.

“I think it was [BBC director general] Tony Hall in his introduction to our Charter pitch who said: ‘We are stewards of a great institution.’ I believe that I am just that – a steward of what I regard as an institution and a really important institution for Scotland and for Scottish audiences.

“I think the rest of the BBC does take this part of the country very seriously indeed and I’m really encouraged by the support that I’ve had thus far from colleagues across the BBC, in terms of what it is that I think we want to achieve collectively and what I hope to achieve over the period of my stewardship.”

A large part of MacKinnon’s career – she started out as a teacher – has been spent in BBC Scotland’s corridors of power as a former head of programmes and services, children’s and Gaelic services. She is also the woman who helped bring us favourites such as Mrs Brown’s Boys, Still Game, Shetland and the award-winning Katie Morag.

So does her time as a BBC staffer mean more of the same management style?

“I can understand why people would say that, but it is quite interesting. I have been asked just this week by colleagues – and I had been acting in the role prior to going through a selection process for it – how different does it feel? And it does feel very different because, although I took that very seriously and did it to the best of my ability, there is something quite striking about thinking that the buck does stop with me. That responsibility is massive, but it’s also a challenge that I really relish taking on.

“I also think there are huge opportunities for us as we embark on a new Charter so it feels that this is quite a pivotal time in the BBC’s history. I think what we will do over the next 10 years will be hugely important in terms of securing a future way beyond my time for a great institution such as I think this is.”

One problem MacKinnon admits she will have to address is the lack of trust felt by a “significant number” of people following the independence referendum. The BBC Trust said claims of bias were unwarranted – a view MacKinnon shares – and she denies there was a conspiracy around the BBC’s coverage.

“We take pride in the fact that the majority of our audiences still trust the BBC. However, there is a significant number still in Scotland whose trust we lost and I think there’s still a bit of work to be done in that regard. I think it’s part of my mission to try and address these perceptions, which may have led to that loss of trust.

“I don’t agree with some who maintain that our coverage was biased and lacking in impartiality. I think there’s evidence over the years of coverage – it wasn’t just in the run-up to the referendum although, of course, it did become quite heated at that point.

“Did we get it wrong, did our focus slip sometimes on either side of what was a very binary decision? Of course we could have – we’re human beings at the end of the day, but I do believe there was no conspiracy.

“On both sides of the referendum, the two leaders of the campaigns have gone on record to say that we were not biased. However, perceptions are perceptions and we again take these seriously. What I would like to do is to be able to point to some of the fantastic stuff that we do that absolutely demonstrates that we are not what we are accused of being.

“There was something else that was quite interesting. We had a hotline in the 16 weeks running up to the referendum which was open to both sides to complain 24/7 if there were particular issues they were concerned about. There were 25 calls made to that line over the 16-week period. Four were inquiries, 21 were complaints – 11 from one side and 10 from the other. So that in itself, I think, is a piece of evidence that speaks for itself.

“All our journalists everybody has a point of view and they’re entitled to have that, but I’m sure we ask our journalists to leave these firmly at the door when they come in to do their jobs here.

“I believe they all take that very seriously indeed and I would defend our journalists. I believe that integrity is there in spades.”

MacKinnnon says the BBC learned a lot from covering the referendum, experience that “instructed and informed” its coverage of the EU poll and which would also be used in the event of indyref2: “I think we would use all the wisdom that we have to apply the best possible journalism to how we would address that, and I have every confidence that we would do that to the best of our ability in a fair, responsible and unbiased way.”

However, she has identified what she describes as “deficits” in BBC Scotland’s news coverage and has set herself the task of addressing its relevance to audiences.

“I would like our news offering across the piece to be perhaps more relevant and I think there are greater demands on us now than at any other point in our history, although you might argue that they’ve been there for some time since devolution. But, increasingly, as devolution moves forward, moves on even with more recently added powers, I think we need to examine what our offering is – not just on our own but with colleagues elsewhere in the BBC – and ensure that we have as relevant a news service as we possibly can for audiences in Scotland.”

Increasing the amount of money spent in Scotland from its take of the licence fee is another priority, following a report that showed only 55 per cent of what was raised here is spent here. That compares to 74 per cent in Ireland, 95 per cent in Wales and over 100 per cent in England.

“That’s a figure that concerns me and I think I certainly aim to amend that so there is more of the licence fee collected in Scotland spent in Scotland, and there are a number of ways we can do that,” said MacKinnon.

“One of the reasons that 95 per cent of the licence fee collected in Wales is spent in Wales is they produce a lot of very high-end drama, which obviously costs a lot of money. There are other things that we need to address – drama is one of them.

I would like to see our network supply increase not just in television but in radio and, indeed, online.

“We’ve obviously had a pretty difficult time since the licence fee settlement last summer and there are challenges ahead for the BBC generally in terms of saving money. But is it right that more of the licence fee raised here is spent here – yes, absolutely, it’s only fair.

“Drama and comedy are two of the most important genres in terms of what the audience expects outside of news and certainly my ambition is to increase the amount of drama that we make here in Scotland – principally increase the amount of drama that reflects Scotland.

“So, this year alone we’ve just finished a production in Edinburgh called Clique, which is aimed at younger audiences, and that’s a big challenge for us, as well as securing that younger audience for the future. We’re just about to launch into a new production which we’ll be filming in Edinburgh from January called Trust Me; we’ve got another series of Shetland coming up which is now into its fourth series.

“The Holy Grail, for me, would be a returning brand – and Shetland might be that returning brand – and more besides. Yes we’re wanting to have these contemporary pieces that will sit on BBC One at 9pm, but I’d also like to see some of our historical pieces perhaps sitting in with some of our classics. We could mimic, for example, what happens on Radio 4 where we produce a wealth of radio drama from here, between 50 and 60 hours per year, which sits on the national radio networks.

“Most recently they had a Stevenson series. That would be my ambition – can we ask somebody like Steven Moffat, who writes Doctor Who and Sherlock, to reimagine what Jekyll and Hyde might be for a modern-day audience? Or we could do a classic period piece.

“Obviously, we can’t do that on our own, we have to do it with our network colleagues. I think they, like me, have the ambition to increase the amount of drama made from here about here. But we also have to look at being perhaps more commercial – how do we attract third-party funding? I think most dramas that are made at the BBC are not fully funded by the licence fee and we have to reimagine our relationship with BBC Worldwide, where they might invest more in Scotland.”

So, MacKinnon has set out her ideas for the future of BBC Scotland and is clearly very optimistic. “There are challenges without doubt, but we have great skills and talent in Scotland, not just in the BBC but among our partner organisations and the independent production sector.

“We’ve got great talent living elsewhere in the UK that we’d like to see coming back, and from week to week I’d like to think we are making great programmes that serve the audience well. I plan to ensure we continue to do that and, if anything, to improve what we do. I’m hugely optimistic and I want to make Scotland proud of the BBC in Scotland.”