BBC Scotland bosses were quizzed on why the corporation spends less money in Scotland than it raises through licence fees in the country, despite the opposite being true for Wales and Northern Ireland.

BBC chief financial officer Alan Dickson and BBC Scotland director Steve Carson faced questions from MSPs on Holyrood’s culture committee on Thursday, with the opening focus being on how much licence fee funding is raised and spent in Scotland.

Figures from the BBC’s annual report for the 2022-2023 financial year show that Scots paid £304 million in licence fees, but £262m (86%) of that was spent in the country.

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In Wales, £187m was raised and £208m spent, and in Northern Ireland, £98m was raised and £109m spent. Both represent returns of 111%.

In England, £3.137 billion was raised through licence fees, and £2.256bn (72% of that) was spent in the country.

SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said the 86% figure for Scotland seemed “quite small”, adding: “Is that a matter of concern and something that you're looking to address?”

Dickson (below) replied that it was not, going on: “We have launched what's called the ‘Across the UK Strategy’, which I think even in its early stages is helping to support the record growth there.

The National:

“There's three aims behind that. One is to move or transfer £700m out of London and into other parts of the UK between ‘21 and ‘28.

“It's not a financial and economic issue, you want to reflect the diversity of voice and the authenticity of all the communities across Scotland and across the UK.

“We also just think it's the right thing to do in terms of moving more of the licence fee outside London.”

BBC Scotland director Carson said that, in cash terms since 2021, Scotland had “received an additional £54m worth of content and investment and that is good going and against the trend compared to other parts of the BBC”.

He went on: “In the not-so-distant past, the licence fee raised/spent figure was in the mid-50s for context. We are coming towards the end of this financial year, in the next report we are confident that we can show that trend growing further.”

In 2021-2022, the BBC licence fee raised £311m in Scotland but only £241m was spent in the nation.

Both Carson and Dickson said that the 14% of licence fee funding raised in Scotland but spent outwith the nation had been used to help fund the coverage of international sporting events, the BBC World Service, and programming enjoyed in Scotland but not created here, pointing to “things like EastEnders”.

Elsewhere in the meeting, Brown asked whether the “courtesy” BBC director-general Tim Davie had paid Tory MPs by attending a private meeting of their 1922 backbench committee in October was to be extended to all parties.

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Brown asked: “I wondered, given that we've seen in recent times the director-general of the BBC attending a meeting of Conservative MPs at Westminster, if we can expect a similar kind of courtesy from the director-general in this parliament?

“In terms of direct communication with the director-general to raise some concerns, is that possible?”

Alan Dickson, the BBC’s chief financial officer, said previous director-generals had appeared before the Holyrood committee, leading Brown to highlight how Davie (below) had attended a meeting for “a particular political party”, not a parliamentary committee.

“Is that a courtesy extended to all parties?” the SNP MSP asked.

The National: BBC director-general Tim Davie ordered a review (Jacob King/PA)

Dickson said: “I'm sure the director general would be open to communication. If there are any issues or any concerns to put towards him, I'm sure he would respond accordingly.”

The BBC bosses were also quizzed on low viewing figures for Scotland news output, after figures showed just 200 people had tuned in to one broadcast of the Seven.

Carson said: “Figures like 200 being quoted in isolation don’t represent the actual performance of those titles.”

He said that output across social media and other platforms increased each show’s reach significantly.