The SNP has branded proposals for TV debates ahead of the next general election as a “cosy Westminster carve-up” after the party was not included.
The party hit out at broadcasters after it emerged that Ukip leader Nigel Farage would be invited to appear in one of three televised clashes.
The UK’s major network broadcasters – the BBC, Sky, Channel 4, and ITV – said their proposed debates would be “vital in engaging voters with the political process”.
Their proposals, which have yet to be agreed by the parties, outline a trio of debates. The first would be a head-to-head showdown between Prime Minister David Cameron for the Conservatives and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband for Labour to be chaired by Jeremy Paxman and co-produced by Sky News and Channel 4.
The second would be a BBC broadcast moderated by David Dimbleby and featuring Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg representing the Liberal Democrats. The third programme would see the three main party leaders joined by Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, to face questions from ITV’s Julie Etchingham.
However, the exclusion of the SNP, which is the party of government in Scotland, has six MPs in the House of Commons, and is currently ahead in the polls for 2015, prompted an angry response.
Westminster SNP leader Angus Robertson said: “These proposals will be utterly unacceptable to any democrat. What the London-based broadcasters are proposing fails in their duty to their viewers in Scotland, and simply doesn’t reflect the reality of politics across the UK today.
“The broadcasters have the cheek to say that their proposed format factors in ‘changes in the political landscape’ to justify including Ukip – entirely ignoring the fact that the SNP are now by far the third largest political party in the UK.
“Current Westminster voting intentions put the SNP in the lead in Scotland, and it is clearly wrong that the leader of the third biggest political party in the UK should be shut out of these network debates.
“Yet they are proposing to include UKIP, despite the fact the SNP won six seats at the last general election to UKIP’s none – and with the SNP at 40% in Scotland for the general election, to UKIP’s four per cent.”
Mr Robertson said broadcasters were repeating perceived mistakes of the referendum campaign and told the BBC to “hang their heads in shame”.
He continued: “Despite the experience of the referendum campaign, the network broadcasters have once again forgotten their responsibility to Scotland. The BBC in particular as Scotland’s public service broadcaster should hang their heads in shame – under their proposals, the Tories and Labour would be included in four debates, the Lib Dems three, and the SNP just one. That is simply unfair to Scotland’s electorate.
“This looks like yet another cosy Westminster carve-up, and we need to know what discussions the broadcasters have had with the other parties, and why there has been absolutely no discussion with the SNP. These proposals are clearly inappropriate for Scotland, and cannot stand.”
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