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BBC Scotland-Alba: 100 Years


By Keith Hamer and Garry Smith

A Fascinating History

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The BBC 5SC Station began broadcasting on March 6th, 1923, from an attic in Rex House, 202 Bath Street, Glasgow as part of the British Broadcasting Company.

John Reith, the BBC’s first General Manager, selected Glasgow due to the size of the potential audience. By the end of 1924, additional stations had opened in Aberdeen (2BD), Dundee (2DE) and Edinburgh (2EH). The offices and studio in Edinburgh were located at the rear of a music shop at 79 George Street. The station broadcast local items each afternoon, including Children's Hour, and evening programmes every  Friday. The output from stations 2BD and 2EH was even received in the USA during International Radio Week in November 1924!

In 1929, it was decided that BBC Scotland’s headquarters should be moved to 5 Queen Street in Edinburgh. These premises opened on St. Andrew’s Day, July 14th, 1930, and remained Edinburgh’s Broadcasting House until relocating to The Tun in April 2002. This coincided with the establishment of the Holyrood Parliament.

On September 1st, 1939, two days before the declaration of World War II, Scotland’s output was merged with the BBC Home Service from all transmitters. The Scottish Home Service resumed normal broadcasts on July 29th, 1945.


In 1947, the Third Programme broadcast across the UK for five hours each evening ‘live’ from the first Edinburgh International Festival. Morning recitals were aired on the Scottish Home Service between Music While You Work and Workers’ Playtime. Edinburgh’s Queen Street studios became home to many foreign reporters as networks across the world were eager to feature such a high-profile event.


In 1948, the Silver Jubilee of the BBC’s arrival in Glasgow was celebrated with an exhibition in Broadcasting House called BBC At Home. Edinburgh celebrated in a similar manner in 1949 with their BBC At Work exhibition.

Television in Scotland began on Friday, March 14th, 1952, from a new transmitter at Kirk o’Shotts. The first programme was Television Comes To Scotland from Edinburgh’s large music studio. It was broadcast through the UK. The show included ten minutes of Scottish country dancing. The first Scottish play was JM Barrie’s The Old Lady Shows Her Medals. The first television Outside Broadcast in Scotland was coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Tattoo.

On July 9th, 1966, the Black Hill transmitter in Salsburgh, North Lanarkshire, opened and brought BBC-2 to Scotland. The BBC began limited colour transmissions in July 1967. A mobile control room allowed Scotland to make their first colour programme, Ring In The New, for that year’s Hogmanay celebrations. Glasgow’s Studio ‘A’ was upgraded to produce colour television programmes in 1971.

On September 20th, 2007, BBC Scotland moved from their former headquarters at The Tun (previously a brewery) in Edinburgh, used from March 2002 to a new purpose-built complex at Pacific Quay. A wide variety of programmes is now produced for numerous networks including five BBC Network radio stations, and television channels, such as BBC-4, CBeebies and the CBBC channel.


Photo: The Keith Hamer+Garry Smith BBC Collection.

Caption: The BBC Scotland Identification Symbol radiated from 1952