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November 13, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:34am

SNP joins Lib Dems in taking legal action over ‘unfair’ ITV News election debate

By PA Mediapoint and Press Gazette

The SNP is taking legal action against ITV after being excluded from a leaders’ debate ahead of the upcoming snap general election.

Nicola Sturgeon (pictured) confirmed the action after the broadcaster said it would host Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in a head-to-head on 19 November.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson earlier this week said her party will launch a legal challenge over the decision to exclude all parties other than the Conservatives and Labour from the debate.

Scottish First Minister Sturgeon said it is “fundamentally unfair” for other parties to be cut out of the debate, although a separate event with all seven leaders is also planned.

She said: “This election may be the most important of our lifetimes. It is quite simply unacceptable for the SNP and other parties to be cut out of proposed leaders’ debates by broadcasters.

“This is fundamentally unfair and it fails to recognise that the UK is no longer a two-party state.

“And in Scotland, this would not be a debate between the two leading parties – instead it would ignore the country’s largest party, which according to the latest polls is also on track to win the third largest number of seats UK-wide.

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“By contrast, the latest polls show Labour in fourth place in Scotland.”

The Lib Dems have also threatened legal action against the BBC for a similar planned head-to-head, due to be held on 6 December after a seven-way leaders’ debate on 29 November.

Sky News has proposed a 28 November date for its own debate.

Sturgeon claimed the timing of debates following the initial ITV contest means many postal votes will already have been cast for the 12 December ballot, giving Labour and the Conservatives “an inbuilt and unfair advantage”.

She said: “The SNP is the third party in terms of Commons representation in the last Parliament, we are the governing party of Scotland and we are one of the biggest political parties in the whole of the UK in terms of membership.

“It is also entirely possible that we will hold the balance of power in the House of Commons after this election – making it all the more important that our perspective is heard and indeed scrutinised.

“To exclude the SNP would be a fundamental breach of broadcasters’ obligations to fully and properly represent and reflect the views of the whole UK.”

Sturgeon said her party wants its legal challenge to be heard on Monday in parallel with the Lib Dems’ proceedings for a judicial review, filed at the High Court this week.

But she criticised the Lib Dems’ “self-centered” approach, saying the SNP will argue not just for themselves but “for other parties to have a place in this debate as well”.

“The era of two-party dominance of UK elections is fading fast, and it is incumbent on broadcasters to recognise that and to act accordingly.”

Lib Dem party president Sal Brinton said on Monday she wants ITV to do the “right, fair and balanced thing”.

“ITV’s current proposal fundamentally disrespects the many millions of people who strongly support remaining in the European Union,” she said.

“It ignores their concerns, their right to question and to be represented.

“Both Johnson and Corbyn want Britain to leave. ITV’s proposal has no place for remain at the top table, despite this being the strongly held view of many millions of both voters and viewers.”

Picture: Reuters/Russell Cheyne 

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