TV leaders’ debates set for go-ahead in Scotland

Alistair Darling and First Minister Alex Salmond at the second television debate over Scottish independence at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in 2014.
Alistair Darling and First Minister Alex Salmond at the second television debate over Scottish independence at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in 2014.
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Televised leaders debates are likely to be staged in Scotland during the election after the heads of Scotland’s main parties gave them their backing today.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out taking part in UK-wide leaders debates, despite her predecessors Gordon Brown and David Cameron taking part at the last two elections.

Prime Minister Theresa May announces a snap general election outside 10 Downing Street. Picture: AFP/Daniel Leal/Getty Images

Prime Minister Theresa May announces a snap general election outside 10 Downing Street. Picture: AFP/Daniel Leal/Getty Images

But the main political leaders in Scotland all gave their support to the televised head-to-head events being staged in the build-up to the June 8 vote.

Tory leader Ruth Davidson said “bring it on” when asked about taking part in a TV debate with the other Scottish leaders.

“I think the difference is in Scotland we’ve kind of always done them,” she said.

“Down south it has been a slightly newer invention, I think David Cameron is the only Conservative leader UK-wide who has ever done them.

“It was Gordon Brown really that helped introduced them.”

She added: “I think we’ve got a really strong message into this general election campaign and I am happy to go on telly ... and to speak to the nation about it.”

Theresa May: ‘Vote is a chance to reject independence referendum’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also criticised Theresa May declining to take part in a TV debate.

She tweeted: “If PM doesn’t have the confidence to debate her plans on TV with other leaders, broadcasters should empty chair her and go ahead anyway.”

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “In Scotland, we have a longstanding tradition of TV debates and I relish the opportunity to challenge Nicola Sturgeon face-to-face about her reckless plans for a second independence referendum, and to challenge Ruth Davidson about her support for Theresa May’s reckless plans for a hard Brexit.”

Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats hit out at the Prime Minister’s decision not to take part in the debates.

He said: “I find it indefensible that that the Prime Minister has already ruled out a TV debate even though it was her that has called this election.

“This upcoming election is one of the most important that this country has ever had and for politicians to hide away from public scrutiny would be a disservice to the electorate.

“Over the next seven weeks, parties across the spectrum will be campaigning on several issues and the Scottish people have the right to hear from their political leaders.

“Within Scotland we have a range of issues that must be debated.

“From the impact of a hard Tory Brexit in Scotland to the SNP’s attempt to break up the UK; all areas must be under public scrutiny and a leaders’ debate would be the right thing to do.

Mrs May told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We won’t be doing television debates.”

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