Alex Salmond: Why is Alba leader not included in tonight’s TV debate?

Adam Forrest
·2-min read
Alba party leader Alex Salmond (PA)
Alba party leader Alex Salmond (PA)

The second live TV debate of Scotland’s Holyrood election takes place on Tuesday, as campaigning resumes after a brief pause to mark the death of Prince Philip.

Leaders from Scotland’s big five parties will attempt to persuade undecided voters to jump off the fence in their direction. Yet one outspoken leader will not get the chance to persuade anyone.

Alex Salmond – who has muscled his way into headlines ever since he launched his own, pro-independence Alba party last month – has been denied a platform on tonight’s STV clash.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie and the Scottish Greens’ co-leader Patrick Harvie will face off for 90 minutes on STV at 7.30pm on Tuesday evening.

Mr Salmond has argued he would provide necessary balance, joining Ms Sturgeon and Mr Harvie on the pro-independence side. “With Alba’s representation, at a stroke, the independence argument will be balanced three apiece,” he said.

The Alba boss has claimed he has an “unanswerable” case to be included, writing to regulator Ofcom, STV and other broadcasters to ensure what he calls “fairness and parity of coverage”.

However, the broadcaster has made clear it is satisfied its debate will be balanced – featuring the five parties which have had seats in the Holyrood parliament.

“STV’s election coverage has been, and will continue to be, balanced and fully in accordance with the strict Ofcom guidelines upon which we make our editorial decisions,” said a spokesperson.

While Alba can claim to have two seats in the Commons, following the defection of SNP MPs Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey to Mr Salmond’s outfit, the newcomers do not have any representation at Holyrood.

It has also been difficult for Mr Salmond to argue that the polls suggest significant support, with the latest Ipsos MORI poll showing Alba on 3 per cent in the regional list vote – a number unlikely to lead to any seats at Holyrood.

George Galloway has challenged Salmond to ‘heavyweight’ debatePA
George Galloway has challenged Salmond to ‘heavyweight’ debatePA

Fellow fringe leader George Galloway is also angry that his anti-independence All for Unity party has been snubbed by the broadcasters – claiming that he would take legal action against STV.

Mr Galloway has challenged Mr Salmond to a one-on-one, mano-a-mano live debate, pointing to an invitation from Andrew Neil of Spectator TV.

“This is the debate that the public have been longing for. Box office, TV gold. The heavyweights of Scottish politics,” said the former Respect MP.

On Monday Mr Salmond claimed the SNP are showing a “lack of urgency” over Scottish independence, claiming Nicola Sturgeon had caused “total consternation” in the movement by saying she wanted indyref2 before the end of 2023.

He also claimed the Duke of Edinburgh enjoyed nothing more “than a good argument” and he would have not appreciated a full week of national mourning before his funeral.

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