THE BBC has sent a “desperate briefing” to Scottish politicians in response to ongoing scrutiny of its Question Time episode in Motherwell.

It comes amid mounting pressure on the broadcaster, with one Scottish Government minister saying its politics output was “becoming like Fox News” and guests on the BBC’s own media review issuing damning criticism of the show.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown said BBC bosses were “defending the indefensible”after sending the letter to all Scottish MPs and MSPs.

The message was a response to our exclusive story yesterday, in which we revealed that SNP minister Fiona Hyslop’s response to an angry Unionist rant from the audience had been cut down to seven seconds.

Issued by Ian Small, BBC Scotland’s head of public policy and current affairs, the letter confirms that former Ukip candidate Billy Mitchell did not provide accurate information in his application to be in the audience.

Small rejects claims of “secret editing”, as made by The National, and claims that Hyslop’s response was in full.

He told the politicians that the cut was made because the audience member interjected and made a comment that could not be broadcast for legal reasons, with Hyslop’s attempts to intervene made at the same time as he was speaking.

“We review and discuss the make-up of every panel and go to great lengths to reflect a broad spectrum of opinion in our audiences, and we will continue to do so,” he concludes.

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We published a response under our online version of the story: “This letter seems to pose more questions than answers. It is clear that they are rattled by the continuing revelations we have made in this newspaper.

“They are complaining about our report which said there was ‘secret editing’ of Hyslop’s response to him.

“They are playing with words. The fact is that a section of the show in which Mitchell and Hyslop continued to interact was cut by Question Time producers and wasn’t broadcast.

“Hyslop was responding to a rant of more than a minute by Mitchell. Seven seconds in, on the final version, the show cuts to another audience member, seemingly as she is in mid-sentence. Ian Small says at this point Mitchell ‘interjected’ (the BBC’s word) with a comment which could not be broadcast. But the BBC claims Hyslop’s response was ‘broadcast in full’. How do you interject if the response is finished?

“Why on earth would you broadcast the full rant of an audience member who goes on to shout something which makes a panelist’s attempt to respond unbroadcastable, and highlight it on social media?”

Keith Brown said: “The BBC are not doing anything to help themselves with this desperate briefing to politicians.

“The audience selection process for Question Time is a fiasco. BBC bosses will have zero credibility left if they continue to defend the indefensible like this. It’s time they got a grip and put a proper system in place that is robust and transparent.”

Scottish minister Paul Wheelhouse was among those to respond to our front-page story, calling for a “root and branch review of the production of what is supposed to be a trusted, flagship show” on Twitter.

He added: “Sad thing is that BBC has great journalists and does magnificent drama, sport, science, history and natural history/environment programming. Entertainment stuff is not bad. For me it’s too often becoming like Fox News on the politics and current affairs stuff though, these days.”

Responding to his comments, a BBC spokesperson said: “We’re pleased Mr Wheelhouse enjoys the wide ranging quality programming across the BBC and recognises we have great journalists. Independent research has shown the BBC is by far the most trusted news outlet in the UK. Our journalists report independently and without fear or favour.”

READ MORE: Here is the BBC's response to our Question Time story

Meanwhile, during a media review on BBC Radio Scotland’s John Beattie show, guests harshly criticised Question Time.

Daily Record journalist Anna Burnside said the BBC’s handling of the row had fanned the controversy.

She said: “If you have to take out the response, surely, unless there’s a really strong reason to keep it in, why keep in just the point?”

Sunday National columnist Stuart Cosgrove said the show should be more representative of its locale.

He said: “Why travel around Britain looking for local dynamics when in actual fact you don’t address those local dynamics?

“Flash back to Dundee at the height of the independence referendum, where it became clear that Dundee had a significant Yes majority, and yet, on Question Time, it bore no relationship to that. It actually felt like almost the opposite, as if the audience was being balanced against the value system of the city it was in.”