Is Alex Salmond a deal breaker on leaders debates?

Alex Salmond may appear alongside party leaders when Sky News hosts its general election leaders' debate. Could his intervention scupper the debates entirely?

Writing for the Digital Technology website, TechWatch, David Allen reports that Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, may appear alongside Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg when Sky News hosts its general election leaders’ debate. But could his intervention scupper the debates entirely?

Allen writes:

“Up until now the leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, has been kept away from the debates, leaving only the big three party leaders up there to take centre stage. But the satellite TV provider BSkyB, has been sympathetic to the SNP leader’s case that he should be up there too, considering his position as Scotland’s First Minister.

“The issue for the other parties is that Alex Salmond could not become Prime Minister of the UK at this election and therefore should be satisfied with the Scottish version of the election debates. Now it looks as if BSkyB is willing to allow the SNP Leader to ask one question on each subject as well as giving his views.”

When it was announced that the three main parties had agreed in principle to a series of election debates, the BBC, ITV and Sky said that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would get their own, separate leaders debate. However, the SNP and Plaid Cymru reacted angrily to this, refusing to rule out legal action at being left out of the main, UK wide debates. Salmond reacted:

“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.

“The broadcasters have got to meet their public service obligations to audiences across the UK, and for them to propose debates which signally fail to do so shows an extraordinarily high-handed attitude and depressingly metropolitan mindset.”

Unsurprisingly, SNP supporters have given a warm welcome for any moves to give the First Minister parity with the main three party leaders. SNP Tactical Voting declares:

“Tremendous news and good job on Sky for seeing sense in respecting the rules governing General Election campaigns.”

Last week, the Telegraph reported that the SNP believed that if Sky were to allow Alex Salmond to participate, then both the BBC and ITV would be forced to follow suit. However, not everyone has been so supportive of the idea. Speaking in October, former Scotland Office Minister, Labour’s David Cairn concluded that Alex Salmond was “desperate to appear in a Westminster TV debate when he isn’t even a candidate for Westminster”.

Lib Dem Leader in Scotland, Tavish Scott said:

“The SNP are quite entitled and should be part of debates in Scotland, but they should not be allowed to get away with bullying broadcasters.”

And David Cameron declared:

“Alex Salmond should get on with being First Minister and, if he wants a debate, he can have it any time with Annabel Goldie and the other political leaders in Scotland.”

Given the overwhelming hostility from the main UK wide parties to Alex Salmond debating with Brown, Cameron and Clegg, as TechWatch ponders:

“Could this be the deal breaker that sees the election debates cancelled entirely?”

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5 Responses to “Is Alex Salmond a deal breaker on leaders debates?”

  1. Mark

    Salmond represents a regional party. Like it or not the British government is increasingly presidential and viewers will be tuning in to view the potential candidates for Prime Minister.

    I think there are more voters in Greater London than in all of Scotland. Should Boris Johnson get an invite too? I didn’t think so…

  2. Mr. Sensible

    Then why not allow Shin Fain, the DUP, the English Democrats, Ukip, the BNP ETC on; what a joke! We’d be here all night!

    Brown, Cameron and Cleg could be Prime Minister.

    The others, barring some spectacular swings could not.

    Accept it!

    And make do with your own regional debates for goodness sake!

  3. Is Alex Salmond a deal breaker on leaders debates? « Scott LaPlant

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  4. John

    The big three will use the debates to swing the voters towards their parties. In Scotland we have four main parties – so how can it be fair if the debates only reflect the political balance from an English perspective. The argument for an additional Scottish version of the debates is flawed as the big three would again be present or represented. More airtime for the big three’s parties cannot be fair. (IE, unfair unless the big three only debates were not aired in Scotland). The logic applies to Wales and N.Ireland too. Who says BBC/ITV/BSkyB have the right to promote an England specific flavour of the issues and personalities as the Election approaches?
    If we are too small/unimportant to justify equal/balanced airtime, let the broadcasters be honest and say it.

  5. CW

    I agree with John: the wider issue at stake here is one of fairness and equality, which are presumably principles contributors to a website named ‘Left Foot Forward’ would be interested in. The idea behind the “Leaders’ Debate” programme is to express the views of the top 3 parties, which in effect elbows all other political parties to the side and brands them as not being worthy enough: quite a political kick in the groin. The SNP – whether you like them or not – are very much mainstream in Scotland, unlike the aforementioned BNP or UKIP. Why should they be marginalised in these debates, particularly by a publicly-funded broadcaster?

    For me the bigger issue is one of personality politics, which is what this debate show is all about. It’s utter bollocks, but far too few people think that, sadly.

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