Another TV Debate Row Is Brewing In Scotland
UKIP is considering legal action after discovering it will be excluded from some BBC leader debates in Scotland. Here we go again.
The never-ending political battle over the format of election leaders' debates has spread to Scotland, with the BBC facing the prospect of legal action from UKIP over its plans.
BuzzFeed News understands the BBC is proposing to hold three TV debates in Scotland before the general election – but, as with the UK-wide debates, not all the parties can agree on the format.
It is understood BBC Scotland wants to hold one debate which would include representatives from four Scottish parties – Labour, Conservatives, the Lib Dems, the SNP – while a second debate would include six parties, adding in the Scottish Greens and UKIP.
There is also a possible third BBC debate – a one-on-one between SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy.
However UKIP has said it will consider legal action against the BBC if the party's only elected representative in Scotland, David Coburn MEP, is not included in each debate.
UKIP is not considered a major party in Scotland by broadcast regulator Ofcom, and it received just 0.7% of Scottish votes in the 2010 general election.
However, Coburn told BuzzFeed News his party should be included in all debates because of his performance in the European election and UKIP's placing in recent UK-wide opinion polls.
"It's disgraceful," said Coburn. "Why should people pay their licence fee in Scotland if the BBC is breaking its charter?
"I wiped out the Liberal Democrats in the European elections, and UKIP is polling on more than the Lib Dems and the Greens put together."
"Most importantly, this is a British election and not a Scottish election. The Scottish things should have nothing to do with it."
The dates of the BBC Scotland debates are yet to be determined, and there is likely to be an additional debate broadcast by STV which may include all six parties.
But Coburn is unwilling to go ahead with the BBC plans as they stand, and said they prove the broadcaster is "in the pocket of Alex Salmond" and that the SNP is "terrified of UKIP".
"The BBC haven't got an answer when I ask why they're excluding me," he said. "We're the only serious opposition in Scotland, and the only true unionist party in Scotland.
"The BBC will do anything to nobble UKIP."
An SNP spokesperson said David Coburn and UKIP's "extreme views" were insignificant in Scotland.
"UKIP have no significant standing in Scotland, amid a chaotic catalogue of mutual recrimination and expulsion, and candidates with extreme views," said the spokesperson.
"David Coburn fits exactly into that category – and while the Westminster establishment might be falling over itself to pander to their agenda, thankfully voters in Scotland have more sense."
A spokesperson for BBC Scotland said: "We strongly reject claims that BBC Scotland is treating any political party unfairly and that it is in the pocket of any politician.
"We are planning a range of election programming that will follow our editorial guidelines on fairness and impartiality. The respective parties will be given proportionate coverage during the reporting of the campaigns.
"Details of our programming, including debates, will be released once they are finalised."