THE editor of the new flagship BBC Scottish news programme has said that she will defend its coverage of the 2014 indyref against accusations of bias “until my dying day”.

The remarkable statement throws up questions over whether the broadcaster has learned anything at all from its experience of covering the referendum – in which it faced well-documented criticism for its failure to properly cover the Yes campaign.

Research after the 2014 referendum found viewers in Scotland were more unhappy about the BBC’s output than any other part of the media, with one survey revealing that a third of Scottish audiences believed the BBC was biased against independence.

Brendan O’Hara, the SNP MP and former TV producer, wrote in this weekend’s Sunday National that the broadcaster’s performance in covering the indyref was “frankly lamentable” – adding that Pacific Quay has a long way to go to win back trust.

But it appears the editor in charge of The Nine, the hour-long flagship news show on the new BBC Scotland channel, disagrees.

Hayley Valentine, a former head of news at BBC Radio 5 Live, who was involved with BBC Scotland’s referendum programming, told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper: “I was involved in our referendum programming. I will defend it to accusations of bias until my dying day.

“I’m not saying the BBC or any other broadcaster was perfect. It was a tricky time, but we were all doing the best we could. I don’t know a single journalist who brought any bias to work with them.”

And speaking on Good Morning Scotland yesterday, Valentine’s boss, BBC Scotland director Donalda MacKinnon, said: “I firmly believe that the BBC is not biased, that there is no agenda.

“I think the evidence of the research I’ve identified … the numbers and scores that we’re being given by audiences in Scotland and beyond in terms of the trust that they have in our news and current affairs offering remain very high indeed and I have to hold on to that.”

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said he will not prejudge the new BBC Scotland channel, but he will be watching it carefully to see if it properly reflects the country’s political diversity.

SNP MP Sheppard told The National he would wait to see what the new BBC Scotland delivered: “We have had a lot of reassurances from senior executives who are trying to win over hearts and minds, but I’m not going to prejudge them.

“I don’t think there’s somebody down at Pacific Quay deliberately trying to stifle the independence question, it’s not planned, not intentional.

“But I think there has been a sense that they’ve been reporting from the paradigm of the UK and not giving enough weight to the alternatives, treating independence as a fringe issue. I’m happy to wait and watch carefully that the tone and context of the new channel reflects Scotland’s political diversity.”

Valentine said she was aware there were “trust issues”, but she said she believed “they are sometimes overplayed”.

She said: “The BBC is still trusted, and BBC Scotland is still trusted, more than most news organisations. I don’t think we are universally dismissed on a trust basis.

“Across the piece, the public looks at lot more sceptically at journalism than it potentially did 10 years ago.

“To be trusted, you have to give people things that they want and have a need for, and stories that they wouldn’t otherwise be told.

“Our remit is to serve the audience better, ask questions that people want asked, explore bits of Scottish life that aren’t currently being explored and reflect their lives back at that them. That will get people to like and trust our programme. It can do a lot to make people feel that we are for them and of them.”

MacKinnon said viewers in Scotland consumed more television than any other audience, although she conceded that they were less satisfied. She added: “I think if you look at news alone some of the most recent studies … that look particularly at news … the BBC in Scotland scores very highly relative to other providers of news and current affairs.

“Where we need to rebuild trust we should make every effort to do so. I believe we have gone some distance in that regard. I think there are those who will always take issue with us – does that mean I will ever stop trying to win them back? No it won’t.”