A HEBRIDEAN MSP has fired back over claims from a senior BBC broadcaster that funding for Gaelic programmes is robbing the BBC “by stealth”.

Former Question Time presenter David Dimbleby has claimed politicians have “cajoled” and “forced” the BBC into funding national language channels in Wales and Scotland for “minorities who speak Welsh and Gaelic”.

Dimbleby made the comments in his recently published book, where he said that the BBC was having to take on “unfunded obligations”.

He said: "No government has yet had the gall overtly to cut the licence fee but it has been continually reduced by stealth. There are two ways of achieving this - one is simply not to increase it while inflation erodes its value. The effect is to force the BBC to make cuts in its staffing and spend less on its programmes.

"The other financial weapon politicians have used to damage the BBC is to place extra, unfunded obligations on it. In recent years, the BBC has been cajoled, persuaded or forced to fully fund new national language channels in Wales and Scotland for the minorities who speak Welsh and Gaelic."

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Speaking to The National, Gaelic speaker and Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan branded Dimbleby's comments “disappointing”.

He said: “It is disappointing to hear a broadcaster for whom I have genuine respect show such an evident lack of understanding of why it is the Welsh and Gaelic languages have a place in public broadcasting.

“The sums of money put into Gaelic TV, for instance, represent a minuscule fraction of the BBC’s annual expenditure and yet prove to be an economic multiplier in terms of TV production in Scotland. No language can survive unless it is heard, including in the broadcast media. I would have hoped that Mr Dimbleby might have appreciated that.”

BBC Alba gets £9 million a year from licence fees and was given an extra £13.4m from the Scottish Government in 2021/2022 – overall television spending for the BBC in 2021/2022 was £1.401 billion.

Speaking to The Daily Mail Gaelic speaker John Morrison, the BBC's former Scotland correspondent, also took issue with Dimbleby’s comments.

He said: “David Dimbleby is a wonderful broadcaster, but on this I must disagree. BBC Alba has managed to quickly establish itself as a popular channel with a loyal audience. It has enhanced the BBC, not diminished it."

And Dimbleby is not the only BBC veteran to take issue with the corporation’s national-level broadcasting.

Professor Tim Luckhurst, a former BBC editor, said: "To serve the interests of its licence payers, the BBC must focus resources on services that reach substantial audiences. The BBC Scotland digital channel is an unaffordable luxury - it should be sacrificed to protect more important services."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government is a strong supporter of BBC Alba. Gaelic is a significant part of Scotland's culture and the Scottish Government is committed to seeing it thrive."

A spokesman for the UK Government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: "The BBC is required to use its licence fee funding to serve all audiences across the UK, including by supporting minority language output."