Scottish nationalists to take legal action over TV debates

27th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) launches a court battle Tuesday in protest at its exclusion from the British election TV debates after raising a 50,000-pound fighting fund.

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 ahead of the third debate Thursday.

They will seek to ensure the debate, which will be broadcast 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 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.

The SNP said Monday it had succeeded in raising the necessary funds -- equivalent of 80,000 dollars, 60,000 euros -- to start the legal bid around 30 hours after launching an appeal for money.

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

© 2010 AFP

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