Is Scotland being left out in the cold?

The proposed leaders' debates in the run up to the general election will not include political leaders from Scotland. The SNP is crying foul.

News that the proposed leaders’ debates in the run up to the general election will not include political leaders from Scotland has seen the SNP cry foul, stopping just short of threatening legal action for breaches of impartiality.

In a statement following the news of the debates, SNP leader and First Minister, Alex Salmond made clear his anger:

“It is entirely unacceptable to Scotland as well as to the SNP for the broadcasters to exclude the party that forms the government of Scotland – and indeed is now leading in Westminster election polls.

“If these debates are to be at all relevant to their audiences, they must reflect the democratic reality of Scotland and political diversity across the UK. And that must include SNP involvement in debates broadcast in Scotland.

“The broadcasters would do well to recall the debacle experienced by the BBC’s Panorama programme in 1995, when they were forced not to broadcast an interview with the Prime Minister in Scotland because it breached the rules of impartiality during a Scottish local election.”

The decision by BBC bosses in 1995 to screen an interview with John Major on Panorama in Scotland saw judges pulling the plug on the programme, declaring it to breach impartiality rules just days before local elections in Scotland. It lead the then controller of BBC Scotland, John McCormick to declare that he was “deeply unhappy” with those in London, whom he described as “insensitive types whose minds do not extend beyond the M25”.

Reacting to the decision to hold the debate, Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy said:

“I am very pleased that these debates will go ahead. Scots will now be able to see the people who could be prime minister debate live before the vote.”

He went on to reissue an invitation for a debate in Scotland between himself, his Conservative opposite number, David Mundell and Liberal Democrat Scottish Affairs spokesman, Alistair Carmichael. Controversially however, in an apparent sidelining of Alex Salmond, Murphy invited the SNPs Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson to join such a Scottish debate. This is despite previous calls by the Scottish Secretary for a head-to-head debate with the First Minister.

Latest polling from IPSOS-Mori suggests that the SNP are narrowly leading all other parties in who people in Scotland intend to vote for in a general election to the Westminster parliament.

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