Debate exclusion: Greens appeal to BBC Director General

For immediate release 25 April 2011

The Scottish Greens' co-convenor Eleanor Scott today submitted a formal appeal to Mark Thompson, the BBC's Director General, over the party's continued exclusion from the public broadcaster's final Holyrood debate on 1 May 2011, and a similar letter was issued to STV concerning their final debate two days later.

The Greens cited:
* A series of voting intention polls showing the party either on parity with or ahead of the Lib Dems, who have been invited to the debates
* The fact that the same polls suggest the Greens could hold the balance of power in the next Parliament
* A YouGov poll conducted by the party indicating almost three to one support for the inclusion of the Greens in the debates
* An independently established online petition, signed by more than a thousand people, including activists and candidates from the other parties, calling for Patrick Harvie's inclusion
* The BBC's internal Editorial Guidance, and the Ofcom broadcasting code, which governs STV

Patrick Harvie said:

"Time's up for the Holyrood debates to be reserved for a cosy little club of the old parties. Holyrood has become a true five party system, and the polls indicate we could well be the fourth of those parties after the election. The longer the campaign goes on, the more arbitrary and absurd the broadcasters' decision to exclude the Greens is becoming. That's why we have today issued a formal appeal to the Director General of the BBC and to STV. There's still time for them to do the right thing.

"I accept I'm not going to be First Minister, but then neither are Tavish Scott or Annabel Goldie. Whoever becomes First Minister, the balance of power in the next Parliament will be held either by Greens, Tories or Lib Dems, and that decision will be made by the public, not the broadcasters. The weekend's YouGov poll suggested we'd be ahead of the Lib Dems on seats, and narrowly behind the Tories. Those parties will be tested in these debates, and the public deserve to see us tested and scrutinised too. The era where the broadcasters could get away with picking winners is over. The Scottish public expect to hear from all significant parties - it's time for the broadcasters to listen."

Noting that the party is now polling at or above 6% consistently with YouGov and Ipsos Mori, the Greens also quoted a letter from Ric Bailey, the BBC's Chief Political Adviser, from March 2011, in which he said:

"It is correct to point out that around 6% is a critical step, likely to be the trigger in the Scottish electoral system for a smaller party to begin winning more seats as the SGP and the Scottish Socialists did in 2003. If the SGP were polling consistently at 6%, then that could be taken as evidence of electoral support at a significantly higher level than was achieved in 2007, with the likelihood of greater representation in the next Scottish Parliament. It is, however, too early to draw such a conclusion and there certainly needs to be a more sustained trend in the polls before it could be concluded that the SGP is within a percentage point of the Lib Dems. The draft Guidance already allows for an increasing level of coverage for smaller parties, where they could demonstrate, through a number of opinion polls, that their level of electoral support was increasing."

The results of the most recent YouGov poll commissioned by Scotland on Sunday were as follows: