Prime ministerial debates in Scotland

The BBC’s Michael Crick can report that “the Leaders’ Debates at the forthcoming election have now been cancelled. Instead, over the past 2-3 weeks they’ve been quietly replaced with Prime Ministerial Debates. It’s a cunning manoeuvre, agreed by the three main broadcasters (the BBC, ITV and Sky) and the three main parties, to exclude the SNP and Plaid Cymru leaders from the debates.”

I’ve discussed in the past why the SNP cannot be excluded in Scotland.

It is also very well described in a comment to Crick’s story by DougtheDug:

If it is true that this renaming has been done to exclude the SNP and PC from the debates along with the Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party, (The Ulster Unionist Party will be represented via their link with the Conservatives), then it’s a clever ploy but once again done with no knowledge of the rules of the game.

Under OFCOM the SNP is classed as a major party in Scotland along with the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib-Dems. PC has major party status in Wales and the NI parties have major party status in Northern Ireland.

Party political election broadcasting is not worked out on the basis of a party’s UK standing but its standing in each of the constituent home nations of the UK. The debates, call them what you will, are multi-party election broadcasts and unless they are impartial in all four home nations then they will fall foul of OFCOM, the BBC guidelines and the law. The only way they can be impartial in Scotland is for all four major parties to be on the platform at the same time. Similarly for Wales and Northern Ireland.

What the broadcasters are trying to do is to apply the rules of impartiality in England which has three major parties to the four party setups in Scotland and Wales and the four party set up in Northern Ireland. It’s a classic case of the broadcasters thinking that England is Britain is England.

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