BBC told Brexit TV debate without Sturgeon ‘dereliction’ of duty

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BBC bosses have been told broadcasting a TV Brexit debate with just Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn would be a “severe dereliction” of the broadcaster’s public responsibility.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown has written to director-general Lord Hall questioning the exclusion of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon from the programme.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Ms Sturgeon has already suggested it would be an “absolute travesty of democracy” if the debate takes place without including someone to make the case for remaining in the European Union.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: ‘Travesty’ if voices shut out of Brexit TV debate

In his letter to Lord Hall, Mr Brown said the issue was being “discussed with the First Minister’s chief of staff at present”.

The SNP depute leader also said the party was told it could not be given the details for the programme, which it would be invited to take part in “in some fashion”, until other potential contributors have confirmed their position.

Mr Brown said: “Such actions on the part of the BBC are clearly not in line with the obligation to act fairly and leave the corporation open to the clear impression that you are acting on behalf of the Prime Minister’s office, a position I am sure the BBC would not wish to be in.”

He argued BBC guidelines require the broadcaster to be “inclusive, reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion”.

Mr Brown also claimed “the proposed format, as we understand it, would not give suitable representation to the devolved governments or parliaments where distinct views on Brexit are held”.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.

Mr Brown said: “This format would also not suitably represent either the support for Remain across the whole of the UK or the growing public and political support, including from the SNP, the Greens, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and an increasing number of members of both the Labour Party and the Conservatives, for a second referendum in which the option of remaining in the EU could be put to the people.

“That is a position which repeatedly secures support in opinion polls.”

READ MORE: Theresa May accepts BBC offer to take part in Brexit TV debate

With the debate taking place just two days before MPs in the Commons have their crunch vote on Mrs May’s proposed withdrawal deal, Mr Brown argued more should be done to include alternative views.

“As you will know, up to six options for the UK’s future will be voted on in the House of Commons on 11 December,” he said.

“To fully debate only the Prime Minister’s view and that of the leader of the Opposition - views which have been televised repeatedly in recent weeks, and which are simply different versions of Brexit, whilst positioning other options on the side of the debate, would be to prevent the public benefiting from a full understanding of the options and potential outcomes facing the UK as a whole and as a result would be a severe dereliction of your public duty.”

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “We have received the letter, which we will answer in due course, but we have not set out any debate format at this stage.”