Sunday, October 11, 2009

Who's Debating You? Salmond has Turned One Down

It has been a hot topic of conversation in Scotland over recent months that Alex Salmond has been saying he wants to be involved in debates in Scotland ahead of the general election. He has even threatened legal action if he is not allowed into the Prime Ministerial debates.

Well if looks like he has refused to answer a challenge from the Scottish leaders Labour's Iain Gray, Lib Dem Tavish Scott and Tory Annabel Goldie to a debate. Indeed let's also invite Patrick Harvie of the Greens and if Alex doesn't show empty seat him. I've since the first ramifications said there should be a Scottish wide debate instead or as well as one of the proposed debates. It is not a compromise but a recognition of the devolved nature of politics here in Scotland, an answer to the West Lothian Question as far as the debates issue is concerned. I'm sure a similar thing will occur in Northern Ireland and I'd wish it also happens in Wales. But Alex is letting his ego get the better of him.

He has stated his ambition of getting 20 seats in the General Election, but his super-ego is getting the better of him. He thinks as First Minister of a devolved Parliament he deserves equal billing with the Prime Ministerial contenders and at the same time thinks he above the opposition leaders in that devolved power. He is in the no mans land, not on the same stage as the others and with his one extra seat considers himself better than Grey and the rest.

Turning down this offer of a Scotland debate on terms of parity while seeking to set, control and bully the UK wide agenda (without consideration to other more nationwide parties) for his own self shows that the ego is what is ruling the SNP decisions on the debates issue.

5 comments:

DougtheDug said...

It's not the post of First Minister that gives him equal billing with Brown, Cameron and Clegg, it's the fact that he is a party leader and that salient point means that he is above the opposition leaders in the Scottish Parliament as none of them are party leaders.

This is a Westminster election. What you would have in a Scottish debate is Alex Salmond as a party leader debating with Goldie, Scott and Gray, two regional managers and an office manager, on matters reserved for Westminster. Only Alex Salmond has the authority and party position to guide and to develop the Westminster policies for his party. Goldie, Scott and Gray would be debating on matters they have absolutely no authority to influence.

I've watched Annabel Goldie on that clip and her knowledge of the political impartiality requirements for broadcasting in both Scotland and the UK is lamentable. Especially for a regional leader.

The three important pieces of legislation and guidelines are the Communications Act 2003 ,the OFCOM and the BBC guidelines.

The OFCOM guidelines define the SNP as major party in Scotland along with the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib-Dems. For any political broadcast broadcast in Scotland unless they are all treated on an equal footing then it will be illegal under the guidelines.

In the BBC guidelines, point 3, they acknowledge that they must take into account the different governmental and political situation in Scotland in their editorial decisions:
To achieve this we must ensure that:
3. they are aware of the different political structures in the four nations of the United Kingdom and that they are reflected in the election coverage of each nation. Programmes shown across the UK should also take this into account.


You have a fundamental misunderstanding about the SNP case to be included in a party leaders' TV debate. The first one is that the SNP are demanding to be allowed onto the debate. It's actually the other way round. The broadcasters are desperately casting around to find legal ways to disallow the SNP from being on the broadcast because the SNP have the law on their side. Despite the guidelines the broadcasters are trying to impose a partial political broadcast on Scotland.

The second is that the SNP want to be part of a UK broadcast. What the SNP want is to be part of any party leaders debate broadcast in Scotland.

The third misunderstanding is that a second debate broadcast with the leaders in the Scottish Parliament would make up for the lack of representation on the party leaders' debate. This wouldn't make the first SNP-less debate legal under the broadcast rules. It would still be a partial political broadcast. It also would mean that the Conservatives, the Lib-Dems and the Labour party would get two bites at the cherry. Their representatives would get airtime on two broadcasts but the SNP only on one.

The party leaders of the four major parties in Scotland are Brown, Cameron, Clegg and Salmond. Unless they all get on a TV debate together that debate will be illegal if broadcast in Scotland.

Turning down this offer of a Scotland debate on terms of parity while seeking to set, control and bully the UK wide agenda...

There's that good word "bully" again.

The Lib-Dems and Labour stopped an interview with John Major from being broadcast in Scotland just before the Scottish local elections in 1995. It means a precedent has been set and that broadcasts have been stopped before by the Scottish courts. It's rather hypocritical to accuse the SNP of "bullying" when they are just threatening to follow a legal route the Lib-Dems trail-blazed 14 years ago.

Stephen Glenn said...

There are a number of issues here.

First we do not (despite what the SNP moniker on the list was) elect the Prime Minister or First Minister. However, the broacasters are reckonising that PMQs (and FMQs for that matter) fail on one thing, to give answers.

What we do elect are MPs to represent us in our constituencies. I did initally argue that the Westminster of the Scottish Parties should be in a Scottish debate to help us decide on our Scottish representatives.

So also say 'Only Alex Salmond has the authority and party position to guide and to develop the Westminster policies for his party.' if that is the case I hope that he never falls under a bus. But seriously he's not going to be in the corridors of Westminster week in week out, indeed he hasn't been for almost 3 years now. So how is he going to influencial.

Finally on the Communications Act, you are forgetting that often a full list of the 100 or so Parties that take part in a General Election will be made available. After each election piece which obviously can't feature all the parties that will be mentioned. Yes other considerations will be taken into account, but having Salmond with his 69 candidates on the same bill as Brown, Cameron and Clegg with 623 (More for Cameron) is not a way to do that. You'd need to include other parties ahead of him, which surprisingly the SNP have not argued. On a UK national debate stage they are a bit part player, but they are obstructing attempts to work around this, which is hardly surprising.

Wardog said...

There's some very mixed up thinking in this post Stephen, I'm not sure where to begin,.......

"He has even threatened legal action if he is not allowed into the Prime Ministerial debates."

Are you seriously suggesting that Nick Clegg might be Prime Minister?

"Scottish leaders Labour's Iain Gray, Lib Dem Tavish Scott and Tory Annabel Goldie"

None of these people lead a UK Party.

"a recognition of the devolved nature of politics here in Scotland"

Eh? This is for a UK Westminister Election

"He thinks as First Minister of a devolved Parliament he deserves equal billing with the Prime Ministerial contenders"

Erm no, he's the leader of a UK party that has a strong national following, I do believ that SKY and the other media outlets have termed these as 'leadership debate', personally I find it a very distasteful focus on personality and presidential type democracy that isn't at all useful in progressing real democracy.

"thinks he above the opposition leaders in that devolved power"

They can quiz him every Thursday , what would be the point of the leaders in holyrood quizzing Salmond on UK matters?

"bully the UK wide agenda"

Yes, the SNP 'bullying' other parties, have you read that one out loud to yourself?

"without consideration to other more nationwide parties"

That one takes the biscuit, what the hell has happened to the liberals, you all used to be so principled when Charlie was in control, now your a rabble of cheap political hookers.

DougtheDug said...

You'd need to include other parties ahead of him, which surprisingly the SNP have not argued. On a UK national debate stage they are a bit part player, but they are obstructing attempts to work around this, which is hardly surprising.

Stephen, the OFCOM guidelines and the BBC guidelines are specific about Scotland and OFCOM recognises the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems as the four major parties in Scotland. It's actually written into the guidelines.

The SNP is not arguing that they need to appear on a UK broadcast nor are they stating their case under the rules which apply outside Scotland. They are simply stating that under the rules, which apply in Scotland, they are legally entitled to appear on a party leaders' broadcast. That is Brown, Cameron, Clegg and Salmond.

Stephen Glenn said...

Actually there is also I believe level of candidates across the constituencies that apply to national coverage of a General Election. You do not expect every national news debate to mention the SNP, Plaid and the Northern Irish parties. Indeed the BBC don't.

Wardog, Salmond may be leader of a UK party but he only stands candidates in 59 seats. That is almost 600 seats less than the UK has.

And Wardog I'd agree with you I'd rather see an Economics, Home Affairs and Foreign policy debate from the other potential holders of the great offices of state as well as just hte leaders.

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