THE coronavirus is unfortunately on the way back. Governments here and around the world are tightening public health restrictions to get the pandemic back under control.

People are crying out for information, guidance and reassurance. So just at the time we need a public service broadcaster worthy of its name what does the BBC do? It bows to partisan political pressure and confirms it is cutting live TV coverage of the daily Scottish Government briefing.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has fronted the daily briefings together with Scotland’s leading public health officials. Our Government has won widespread public praise for effectively communicating developments and guidance while Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly refused invitations from journalists to make party-political points.

That hasn’t stopped the Tories and their little helpers in the Labour Party from seeking to politicise the health briefings by calling for BBC managers to end the daily live TV coverage on BBC One and the BBC Scotland Channel.

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Last week, the former deputy chairman of Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative Party who is new BBC director-general Tim Davie made a flying visit to BBC Scotland HQ in Glasgow. Within days, the decision was announced to ditch the live TV coverage.

First out of the blocks to welcome the move was Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, closely followed by Labour peer George Foulkes who gloated: “Good to see BBC Scotland have taken account of representations from Jackie Baillie MSP and me!”.

This is the same George Foulkes who famously said on the radio: “The SNP are on a dangerous tack at the moment. What they are doing is trying to build up a situation where services are manifestly better than south of the Border in a number of areas.”

When asked by the interviewer: “Is that such a bad thing?”, he responded “No but they are doing it deliberately”.

Public health and care professionals have been among the first to condemn the BBC decision. Dr Donald Macaskill, the CEO of Scottish Care said: “I’m very disappointed that, in the midst of the largest public health emergency ever, BBC Scotland has decided to cut back coverage of the Scottish Government daily briefing. Older people, especially at this time, depend on this information –yet another example of age discrimination during Covid-19.

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Meanwhile, the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health, Research and Policy (SCPHRP) said in a message to BBC Scotland: “As a public health organisation, we strongly disagree with your decision to remove the daily briefings. People use these to make informed decisions about Covid19 – please re-instate them”.

Former Labour Scottish Government minister Malcolm Chisholm said he was: “Surprised BBC Scotland has caved in to some politicians putting party politics before public health. They can make all other criticisms of First Minister that they wish but her clear consistent daily messaging has been exemplary and appreciated by many with widely divergent views”.

When asked about the BBC decision, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The televising of these briefings at a time like this have been a public service and the BBC is a public service broadcaster.

“They have been important in allowing me to communicate information and advice directly and giving us the opportunity to explain the reasoning and rationale behind the decisions we are taking and the things I’m asking people to do.

“I’ve always thought the more people can understand why they are being asked to restrict their lives in certain ways, the more likely it is they are going to comply. I think that principle has generally served Scotland well in the last few months.

“We are clearly at a point where the virus is accelerating again as we go into winter – so it becomes more important, not less important, to continue that very direct communication.”

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Ironically, it is older people who are the most vulnerable demographic in society to coronavirus. It is they who rely most on BBC television and are least likely to use BBC streaming and other online services. I have huge sympathy for diligent broadcasters who have done so much to help report on the coronavirus pandemic. They have worked extremely hard to inform the public.

However, many television viewers in Scotland still can’t forgive the BBC for its coverage of the 2014 independence referendum. Given the obvious sensitivities you would have thought there would be some consideration given to the consequences of buckling to the pressure of the opposition parties in Scotland.

No wonder there has been a strong backlash, with thousands signing a petition and the social media hashtag #BBCScotlandSwitchOff trending first across Scotland.

BBC bosses must reconsider their ill-judged politically influenced decision or face the charge they are now a public dis-service broadcaster.