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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