Six in 10 Scots say Sturgeon should join TV debates

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg makes his point on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday. He is due to appear in the TV debates. Picture: BBC
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg makes his point on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday. He is due to appear in the TV debates. Picture: BBC
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A MAJORITY of Scots say Nicola Sturgeon should be part of the TV general election leaders’ debates, a poll has found, and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has called on TV companies to bring forward “other proposals”.

The Deputy Prime Minister insisted the Greens are being used as an “alibi” by the Conservatives and Labour to scupper the debates, which were a key feature of the last general election campaign in 2010.

Nationalists stepped up the pressure for SNP leader Ms Sturgeon to be allowed to take part after it emerged that 60 per cent of Scots backed the move, ­according to a YouGov poll.

SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie said: “There is clearly overwhelming support for the inclusion of the SNP in any televised debates in Scotland.

“It is the latest sign that people across Scotland are putting their trust in the SNP to stand up for their interests, and oppose Westminster austerity. It is also an indication of the extent to which the Westminster parties let down people in Scotland.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has made it clear he will not participate in the debates unless the Green Party is included alongside Ukip.

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Green leader Natalie Bennett confronted Mr Clegg directly over the issue yesterday, calling on him to get his “other two amigos”, Ukip leader Nigel Farage and Labour’s Ed Miliband, to also write to the broadcasters to ask for her party to be included.

Mr Clegg insisted yesterday it is for the broadcasters to come forward with new proposals because of concerns over the existing plans. He believes the debates will take place. He claimed the Tories are “swithering around a lot”.

He added: “I think it’s inevitable in a hugely fragmented political environment – fragmented in a way I can’t remember in my political lifetime – that two big vested interests, the red team and the blue team in this case, using the Greens as an alibi on the debates, will try and squeeze other voices out.

“They want to put the genie back in the bottle. They want to run things as they’ve done ­before. I think it’s too late.”

Ms Bennett, during a TV clash with the Lib Dem leader, told Mr Clegg: “I think we’ve spent most of the last week debating about the debates instead of talking about issues and I don’t think the public is enjoying that or wants that to be happening.

“So Mr Clegg, will you perhaps get together with your other two amigos, Mr Farage and Mr Miliband, and write to the broadcasters and say, include the Greens as the public wants and then we can get on to debating the issues instead of debating debates?”

Mr Clegg replied: “The broadcasters need to come forward with other proposals because clearly the current one, which I am not wildly happy about because it excludes me as a leader of a governing party, so they need to come forward with proposals. I’ll get my soapbox out any day of the week.”

Ms Bennett pressed Mr Clegg: “Will you say, invite the Greens?”

Mr Clegg said it was not for him, Mr Cameron or Ms Bennett to tell the broadcasters what to do. Ms Bennett replied that the polls and public indicate the Greens should be included. Told that he could advise the broadcasters what to do, Mr Clegg said Mr Cameron had made an “error” by trying to dictate to them.

The plans put forward by the BBC, Sky News, ITV and Channel 4 in October would include the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Ukip.

One would feature a head-to-head between Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband, another would also include Mr Clegg, and the third would feature the leaders of the Tories, ­Labour, Lib Dems and Ukip.

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