BBC Scotland has been accused of “politicising the pandemic” after making changes to the live broadcasting of Scottish Government briefings which it claimed were needed in order to keep coverage “impartial”.

The broadcaster sparked a row earlier this month after suggesting it would no longer regularly screen Nicola Sturgeon’s daily updates on television, with only live streaming on its website continuing as routine.

It came after opposition parties had claimed the briefings were becoming increasingly politicised, which was denied by the First Minister.

At the time, the BBC said the decision to scale back and air the briefings based on “editorial merit” was being taken with the Scottish Parliament returning to a more normal basis as Covid cases fell.

But more than 50,000 people signed a petition calling for it to be reversed and the broadcaster later U-turned, saying it would look to cover the briefings live on TV with the pandemic “still a major cause for concern”.

A new programme has since been launched on BBC One Scotland, which includes contributions from experts, commentators and opposition politicians, as well as coverage of the updates from Scottish Government officials. The full briefing, including questions from journalists, is broadcast on the BBC Scotland channel.

However SNP councillor Chris McEleny, who complained to the BBC over the briefing broadcasts being cut, said bringing opinions from a “political panel” risks confusing messages to the public during the pandemic.

In a response from the BBC Complaints department, it said it will continue coverage of the briefing in a live broadcast “as long as there is important public health information that requires to be imparted”, adding that this has “never been in question”.

“Such decisions will always be made on the basis of editorial judgement and listening to our audiences. We will always take full account of how the pandemic continues to evolve to inform that judgement,” it said.

The statement went on: “With increasing political comment and commentary from across the political spectrum around many of the decision-making practices and processes related to the pandemic, including the economic response, effects on education, etc, we believe it is important to evolve our overall approach to ensure we can continue to deliver content that is both accurate and duly impartial and which allows a range of voices and perspectives to be heard within that coverage.”

The new programme, it added, would look to bring in “news and views from around Scotland and beyond”.

McEleny said he welcomed that the BBC had been “forced to think again” about the proposed axing of routine broadcasts of the briefing.

“For many people in Scotland this is an essential source of how they get up-to-date information during this unprecedented global health pandemic,” he said.

“It would’ve been unforgivable to deprive people in Scotland, particularly older viewers, of this vital broadcast simply because people like George Foulkes and Jackie Baillie complained about it.

“I am still concerned that it appears the BBC wish to politicise the pandemic via a political panel to debate announcements.

“If this leads to uncertainty of messaging then it will be a counterproductive measure and the BBC should review that immediately.“

A BBC spokesperson said: “Whilst there continue to be major developments in the pandemic in Scotland, we will, over the coming weeks and as we did last week, look to cover the Scottish Government health briefings live on TV.”