Scottish election debate LIVE: BBC shamed for ‘locking out’ Galloway – Sturgeon mocked

Alex Salmond pledges to stand against Sturgeon in elections

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Scotland’s political leaders will clash just six weeks ahead of the Holyrood elections, staged in front of a virtual audience because of the coronavirus pandemic. The SNP’s under-fire leader and First Minister Ms Sturgeon, as well as Scottish Conservative Douglas Ross, Labour’s Anas Sarwar, Green Lorna Slater and Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie, will all take part in the BBC programme. The five party leaders will look to outline their party’s key policy pledges and arguments as the clock ticks down to the crunch Scottish election on May 6.

The programme is being shown on BBC One Scotland, and will be moderated by the BBC’s Scotland Editor Sarah Smith.

But All For Unity leader Mr Galloway and former First Minister Mr Salmond, who last week announced the establishment of the Alba political party, will not be taking part in the live televised election debate.

Mr Galloway lashed out on Twitter, mocking the amount of television time being given to Ms Sturgeon and venting his fury at he and Mr Salmond being “locked outside” in a point directed towards the BBC’s Scotland Editor Sarah Smith.

He wrote: “Nobody tonight will lay a glove on TV’s Nicola Sturgeon – more screen-time this year than Lukashenko – while me and #Salmond are locked outside.

“But then, that’s the point isn’t it…@BBCsarahsmith.”

In an article on its website to preview tonight’s Scottish election debate, the BBC attempted to explain why leaders of other political parties are not taking part.

The broadcaster wrote: “The BBC considers a number of factors when deciding who takes part in its TV election debates.

“One of those factors is based on previous and current electoral support.

“For example, the parties featuring in Tuesday’s broadcast had MSPs elected to Holyrood in 2016.

“They also have elected representation in other chambers, such as local councils and at Westminster.”

The BBC also insisted leaders of smaller political parties will receive impartial and proportionate coverage of their campaigns in the coming weeks.

The article added: They are general rules outlining how the broadcaster will cover things like day-to-day campaigning and debates.

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“Although the leaders of smaller parties will not appear in this live television event there will be impartial and proportionate coverage of their campaigns in the coming weeks.”

While under-fire Ms Sturgeon has been questioned by her political rivals in the Scottish parliament over recent weeks, this will be the first time they will be able to challenge the First Minister in a live televised debate.

During the last Scottish election in 2016, the SNP suffered humiliation after being reduced to a minority Government winning 61 out of the 129 available seats in the Holyrood parliament.

Scotland’s ruling party is hoping to reverse that trend and gain a majority in the upcoming election on May 6, and has vowed to use such a result as a mandate to press ahead with a second referendum on Scottish independence.

But the SNP has come under huge pressure over recent weeks, with Ms Sturgeon’s political rivals demanding she resign after she was found to have “misled” the Scottish parliament over her knowledge of harassment complaints against former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Speaking to Express.co.uk last weekend, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross warned Ms Sturgeon’s refusal to stand down from her position could backfire badly against the SNP and result in election humiliation.

Last Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon survived a vote of no confidence, brought by the Scottish Tories, by 65 votes to 31 with 27 abstentions.

The First Minister also told the Tories: “If you think you can bully me out of office, you are mistaken and you misjudge me.

“If you want to remove me as First Minister do it in an election.”

She added: “If today’s desperate political stunt proves anything, it is that you have no confidence whatsoever in your ability to do so, because you have nothing positive to offer the Scottish people.”

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