THE BBC’s director-general has been asked whether the channel’s flagship Scottish soap opera River City will be affected by “cost efficiency” plans for the corporation in London to take over its studios in Scotland.

Worried staff at the BBC in Glasgow have written to Tim Davie about the proposals – exclusively revealed by The National – which would see BBC Studioworks start to run the broadcaster’s studios in Scotland.

Originally it was thought that the plan would be limited to the two studios at Pacific Quay in Glasgow, but there is now concern it could also involve its studio in Dumbarton, where the drama River City is filmed.

Glasgow Times:

In a letter to Davie and BBC Scotland director Steve Carson, seen by our sister title The National, senior staff ask: “Are the studios at Dumbarton included in the proposal and what are the implications for River City?”

The broadcasting trade union Bectu fears the plans will result in job losses, damage the country’s television industry and erode Scottish influence on output.

The studios directly employ around 150 people, mostly technical staff including camera operators, vision mixers and sound engineers, and generate millions of pounds a year from the programmes they make, which includes hits such as Mrs Brown’s Boys.

In their letter, senior staff at the studios also want Davie and Carson to spell out why the plans makes financial sense for BBC Scotland and for the licence fee payer.

Their letter states: “What are the reasons on removing a facility that consistently delivers a financial return for BBC Scotland which is re-invested in programmes and services?

“Where will this income deficit gap be plugged in the future and does this present best value for money? ... Would the freelance staffing be drawn from England and be driven by production choice at the expense of Scottish-based freelance staff?”

“While there may be more commissioning pointed towards Scotland (although the evidence isn’t there just now) what benefit will BBC Scotland, and the wider BBC, see from this move? What will this mean for staff jobs as TUPE is not part of the proposal?

“Will there be staff redundancies and if so has this cost been factored into proposal?”

It added: “What will this mean for BBC Scotland’s role within the industry in Scotland developing talent in technical roles that are based in Scotland?”

It went on: “What are the ramifications for other areas of operations such as post production, graphics and radio? Is this proposal the start of a dissolution on in-house technical craft skills within the BBC?”

It is understood that BBC chiefs are saying the plans are in part a response to a new £11.9 million television and film studio being built inside Kelvin Hall, which was unveiled by Glasgow City Council earlier this year.

Council bosses hope the new studio will attract big-budget entertainment and drama productions with the project receiving up to £7.9m in funding from the Scottish Government.

The screen sector is estimated to be worth up to £500m to Scotland each year, with 60% of that in Glasgow.

Meanwhile, Scottish Government ministers, MSPs and MPs are being asked to intervene in the BBC studios situation by Bectu to try and halt the takeover.

“This move, if it goes ahead, could have disastrous and far-reaching implications across BBC Scotland,” Paul McManus, the trade union’s negotiating officer, told members, asking them to write to MSPs.

“Members who transferred into BBC Studios and BBC Children’s in recent years have been through ongoing redundancies and casualisation of the staff.

“Even with the TUPE transfers they have seen their work transfer to Salford and London and the ongoing reduction of work in Scotland.

“Without a TUPE transfer there would undoubtedly be dozens of redundancies in Glasgow and a huge increase in the use of freelances with no control over whether these freelances are Scottish-based or London-based.”

He added: “After we were briefed on this move by management last week I immediately wrote to Scottish Government ministers and met with their civil servants on Thursday to highlight the devastation this move would have on members in Scotland.

"I would therefore urge every member to write to your MSP and MP calling on them to write to Tim Davie opposing this move and calling for an urgent inquiry by the Scottish Government’s culture committee.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC has recently announced plans to move more power and decision-making across the UK in order to reflect, represent, and serve all parts of the country.

"The plan will create jobs and investment in all four nations as well as strengthening our presence and support for the creative economy in Scotland.

"We’re currently exploring a number of options around the management of the BBC’s studio facilities, but no decisions have been taken.”