Scottish nationalists in BBC legal challenge over TV debate

27th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) mounts a legal challenge Tuesday against the BBC over its exclusion from the final British election TV debate.

The nationalists are furious they have not been included in the televised clashes -- the first in British election history -- and are set to lodge court papers in Edinburgh to start the action over the third debate on Thursday.

They will seek to ensure the clash, which will be shown by the publicly-funded BBC, is broadcast in Scotland with the nation's political make-up "fairly" reflected.

The SNP wants to have either party representation in the clash, which will be focused on the economy, or an agreement to have a further leaders' debate organised before voters go to the polls.

"We're not trying to stop the BBC debate, what we're doing in going to court is to try and get to participate in it, because that's fair and that's democratic," Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who leads the SNP, insisted in comments to BBC radio.

The SNP went ahead with the legal bid after raising 50,000 pounds (80,000 dollars, 60,000 euros) for a fighting fund.

The two debates so far in the run-up to the May 6 poll have seen Prime Minister Gordon Brown take on main opposition Conservative leader David Cameron and head of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg.

The showdowns have been credited with throwing the election battle wide open after Clegg's party received a poll boost on the back of his performance in the first clash.

His party was lifted out of their traditional third position in opinion surveys into second, and sometimes even first, place -- a jump in popularity they have managed to maintain.

But Clegg condemned the legal action as "a measure of desperation on Alex Salmond's part."

"The broadcasters have made their decision, they've invited the leaders of the parties competing across the United Kingdom to be prime minister of this country," he told the BBC

"So, quite understandably, they haven't invited Alex Salmond."

© 2010 AFP

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