John Swinney insists SNP should be invited to all TV debates during general election campaign

Nicola Sturgeon took part in an ITV debate with future PM Rishi Sunak ahead of the 2019 general election
-Credit: (Image: Handout)

John Swinney has said he should be invited to take part in all TV debates involving party leaders during the general election campaign.

The First Minister spoke out today as it was reported Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak have agreed to a live head-to-head debate in front of a studio audience on ITV next week.

The Tories - who are trailing in the polls - have demanded the Labour leader agree to six televised debates between now and polling day on July 4.

But Starmer's team have so far only committed to two prime time clashes - matching what Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn did in 2019.

The Record understands Swinney has been invited to one TV debate so far involving leaders from multiple parties.

Asked if he was ready to join a leaders' debate, Swinney told the Record: "I'm very happy to take part in a live UK party leaders' debate - I should do because I lead the third largest party in the UK.

"As things stand just now, we have been invited to one - but we should be invited to all debates, as I lead the third largest party.

"The fact you're asking a question about it, tells us enough what's going on here. I think if we're going to have a proper debate, that reflects the breath of opinion in our country, the leader of the third largest party should be at all of these debates, without question."

The BBC, Channel 4 and Sky News are all understood to still be negotiating with the parties for further debates during the five weeks before polling day.

The embattled Tory Prime Minister has previously accused Starmer of not having the "courage" to face him on live TV.

Starmer said last week: "I can do one debate or 100, I know what Sunak is going to say.

"Of course there will be live TV debates, but I want to talk for as long as I can to voters directly and take my message to them and hear from them. At the end the power is with those voters."

The BBC has also reported that Starmer wanted to take part in two head-to-head debates rather than including smaller parties.

The source added they did not believe debates on other TV channels with smaller audiences was a valuable use of campaign time.

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