Furious nationalists secure BBC meeting over leaders’ debate

By politics.co.uk staff

BBC bosses will meet with nationalist parties to discuss a fourth election debate covering the devolved nations, after complaints they have been frozen out of the debate process.

The BBC had originally turned down the request from Plaid Cymru and the SNP to have a fourth leaders’ debate including Alex Salmond and Ieuan Wyn Jones.

SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell said: “We are ready to meet the BBC Trust at any time to discuss our appeal. The exclusion of the SNP, the party of government in Scotland, from the election leaders’ debates is fundamentally undemocratic. We also believe it is a clear breach of the BBC’s obligation of impartiality.

“We also believe that the BBC Executive has failed in its duties by excluding the SNP and Plaid Cymru from the negotiations which were held with the other parties over what was clearly a prolonged period.

“We know we have an extremely strong case, and now look forward to making that case directly to the BBC Trust.”

The BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body, has now written to the two parties, asking them to prepare for an oral hearing on the issue between April 22nd and 27th.

The BBC debate featuring the three main parties’ leaders will be held on April 29th.

An ad hoc committee of the Trust involving five people – the trustees for Scotland and Wales, and three members of its editorial standards committee – will consider the appeal and whether there should be an oral hearing.

It is understood that the trust is in correspondence with Mark Thompson, BBC director general, on the issue.

Both Plaid and the SNP want their leaders to appear in a national debate with the three main national leaders.

A spokesman for Plaid Cymru said: “We have offered a couple of options to the BBC, either that our leaders take part in some way in the BBC debate or to have a fourth debate with all the leaders.”

The BBC will hold debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Sky in Scotland and Wales.