Analysis

Five ways Scotland was ignored in the ITV general election debate between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer

It was an ugly debate between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer - but where was Scotland?

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer came to blows in their first head-to-head debate of the election campaign.

It was a tense verbal battle, with presenter Julie Etchingham struggling to be heard over the pair’s shouting and both being reprimanded for raising their voices. But one thing was glaringly obvious in the discussions - where was Scotland?

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Here are five ways Scotland was ignored at the ITV debate on Tuesday evening.

1 - John Swinney was not invited

Only the leaders of the two main parties were invited to take part in this debate.

Speaking only hours before the live debate, First Minister John Swinney said he should be there too so Scotland was adequately represented, and because the SNP is the third largest in the UK.

Speaking during a campaign visit to a nursery in Leith, Mr Swinney said: “I should be there, because I am the leader of the third largest party in the UK.

“We’re not living in a presidency, we’re living in a parliamentary democracy.

“We should have more than just the Conservative and Labour leaders, because they actually agree on an awful lot of things and want to do the same things on migration and fiscal restraint.”

2 - Was the word “Scotland” used?

Many comments north of the border in the aftermath of the debate were on how neither leader actually mentioned Scotland or discussed any policies that affect Scots.

This just gives more campaign fodder to the SNP, who say this shows why people in Scotland should vote for them on July 4.

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While out campaigning in Linlithgow this morning, Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes said: “I think last night’s debate tells us everything we need to know about this election.

“First of all, Labour and the Tories will turn up in Scotland and make nice comments, and then when you watch the debate Scotland doesn’t get mentioned.

“That’s precisely why we need SNP MPs in Westminster making sure the next government doesn’t forget about Scotland.”

3 - Jobs in the North Sea 

The oil and gas industry in the north-east of Scotland did get a fair look-in at the debate - but not so much the workers.

During this part of the debate Mr Sunak and Mr Starmer focused on how they would bring down the cost of household energy bills and improve energy security, but didn’t address how they would save jobs in the North Sea in the just transition.

By contrast, this was a huge talking point in the STV Scottish leaders’ debate, with many choosing to spend their cross-examination of each other on this issue.

Again, this gives Scottish parties fodder to say the Westminster leaders aren’t focusing on the just transition.

4 - Junior doctor strikes

Now, it’s probably a fair point to mention here that health is devolved to Holyrood.

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There was a brief explanation of the devolved nature of healthcare from the presenter, but neither leader acknowledged this when they clashed over junior doctor strikes.

Junior doctors in England are to stage a five-day strike from June 27, right before polling day.

Both challenged each other on how to tackle this ongoing issue in England’s NHS, with Sir Keir saying the “grown-up way” is to “get in the room and negotiate with the doctors and come to a settlement”.

Not a single day has been lost to strike action in Scotland’s NHS - but there was no mention of this in last night’s debate.

5 - No Scotland, no Euros party

The end of the debate took a slightly lighter tone - England football manager Gareth Southgate texted in to ask the leaders about their management style.

Great opportunity for both to wish England good luck.

Sir Keir said Gareth Southgate needs a “good plan” and a “good squad”, adding “he has got both”.

He said: “I think England will do really well this year, they are a fantastic team.

“He has built a very good squad, just like I have a brilliant shadow cabinet.”

Spare a thought for Steve Clark and the thousands of Tartan Army fans expected to descend on Germany later this month.

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