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Scottish Tories branded ‘greatest threat to union’ as they back Westminster calls to freeze BBC licence fee

BBC bosses claim stalled funding will hurt them as inflation rises.

Conservatives were slated by rivals after backing Westminster plans to freeze the BBC licence fee for two years – with fears it could eventually be scrapped.

Labour MP Ian Murray branded the Conservatives the “greatest threat to the union” as they supported the move to limit increasing funds for the public broadcaster.

Tories north of the border said keeping licence fee rates at the same level would help Scots struggling to pay their bills.

When asked whether they supported abolishing the funding model altogether, they said they were “open-minded” about possible alternatives.

Tory culture secretary Nadine Dorries confirmed earlier this week the government will press ahead with the plans.

She added that her party do not want to “destroy” the BBC – but claimed “serious questions” need to be asked about how it should be supported in future.

The new annual levies will be in place until 2028, with the Tories potentially overhauling the funding model after this if they remain in power.

Currently UK taxpayers fork out £159 each year to watch the channel on TV.

BBC bosses claim stalled funding will hurt them as inflation rises and added that money flowing to them has dropped significantly in the last decade in real terms.

The Scottish Tories are the greatest threat to the union.”

– Ian Murray MP

Labour’s Mr Murray accused his rivals of trying to “denigrate” the broadcaster and added that they were “afraid” of criticism.

He said: “The BBC is the envy of world broadcasting and provides an enormous amount of value to people across the United Kingdom.

“The sad reality is Scotland is stuck between two governments who want to denigrate the BBC for their own political ends – the Tories and the SNP, both afraid of the scrutiny that comes from an impartial public broadcaster.

“The Scottish Tories claim to stand up for the union becomes more laughable by the day – instead, they are the greatest threat to the union.”

Donald Cameron is a Highlands and Islands MSP
Donald Cameron is a Highlands and Islands MSP

Tory constitution spokesman Donald Cameron said: “The Scottish Conservatives recognise the BBC is a great national institution, which plays a vital role in Scottish and UK cultural life.

We believe that the UK Government is right to freeze the licence fee.”

– Donald Cameron MSP

“But we need to have a conversation about the best way to fund the BBC in the future – with all options on the table – to make it fit for the 21st century.

“In the short term, we believe that, with household budgets currently under huge pressure, the UK Government is right to freeze the licence fee for the next two years.”

Speaking at Westminster, Ms Dorries said: “The decision as to what the future funding model looks like is for discussion, some of us may not even be here by the time 2028 arrives.

“So it’s time to begin asking those really serious questions about the long-term funding model of the BBC.”

The BBC will now have to absorb inflation.”

– Tim Davie, BBC director general

The BBC’s director general Tim Davie said: “Given the breadth of services we provide, the licence fee represents excellent value for money.

“A freeze in the first two years of this settlement means the BBC will now have to absorb inflation.

“The BBC’s income for UK services is already 30% lower in real terms than it was 10 years ago.”

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More from the Press and Journal Scottish politics team

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