THE director of BBC Scotland has admitted that the Scottish version of Question Time can’t afford to tour the country.

Donalda MacKinnon spoke publicly for the first time since the corporation was engulfed in controversy following the airing of its Motherwell edition of Question Time.

Debate Night, as the Scottish incarnation will be named, has already been subject to a row before it begins airing next week, after it was revealed that failed Ukip candidate Billy Mitchell had appeared in the audience for the show’s pilot episode.

READ MORE: Revealed: Question Time secretly edited SNP answer to Unionist plant

Mitchell had already made four appearances on Scottish Question Time episode and was given a platform to go on an anti-SNP rant three out of the four times.

His latest appearance sparked a week-long row over how audiences for the show are chosen and whether or not they accurately represent the area in which they are taking place.

However, MacKinnon said budget constraints mean the show will be hosted from Edinburgh rather than touring the country.

“We just can’t afford to do it is the truth of the matter,” MacKinnon told the Financial Times.

“We’ve always acknowledged that these are relatively challenging sums of money to deliver the kind of range and breadth of content that we have ambitions to deliver,” she added.

The National: BBC Scotland director Donalda MacKinnon spoke out for the first time since the Question Time rowBBC Scotland director Donalda MacKinnon spoke out for the first time since the Question Time row

The admission raises concerns about whether or not the £32 million annual budget set aside for the new channel – which launches on February 24 – is adequate.

“Expectations are high and the budget is low,” David Hutchison, visiting professor in media policy at Glasgow Caledonian University, told the FT. “There really needs to be more money put into this.”

Neil Blain, communications professor emeritus at Stirling University, added: “It’s a hell of a challenge to build an audience on television at 9pm in the evening [when the flagship hour-long news show The Nine will air].”

Despite these concerns, MacKinnon said she was “very confident” the allocated budget would be enough to deliver what Scottish viewers want.

Addressing the recent controversies and long-term accusations of bias against independence, MacKinnon said: “Hopefully, even amongst the most cynical and sceptical, they will see that there is something here for them.”

READ: BBC's letter to Scottish MPs and MSPs defending Question Time ... and our response

The new BBC Scotland channel, which will air daily from midday to midnight, launches on February 24.

In a separate interview with The Guardian, MacKinnon said she wished to convince critics there was no bias or agenda at the BBC.

“It’s an absolute priority for us that audiences have confidence that we’re doing all we can to ensure fairness and balance in our news and current affairs output,” she said.

“I don’t want to talk about individuals but as far as Question Time is concerned there are robust procedures around audience selection and the production team does not invite people to participate.”

MacKinnon added that she had full confidence in Mentorn, the production company which produces the show, who have also been chosen to produce Debate Night.

Addressing the claims of bias in their coverage of Scottish politics, which dates back to the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, MacKinnon said: “I don’t imagine that we’re ever going to eliminate that, but the creation of an integrated nine o’clock news bulletin in the centre of the schedule, I hope, will go some way to addressing it.”