Coronavirus in Scotland: BBC to broadcast daily covid briefings with opposition parties during Scottish Parliament election

BBC Scotland has confirmed plans to allow the opposition parties to contribute to some of its daily coronavirus briefings in the run up to the election in May.

From Wednesday, March 24, whenever a briefing is led by a Scottish Government minister, members of the other main parties will be invited to contribute to the coverage.

The corporation will also consider how significant the new public health information expected to be discussed at each briefing is before deciding whether to broadcast it during the campaign.

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It is thought that the briefings that are aired will normally be shown on BBC Scotland or the BBC News Channel, or on BBC One in Scotland when “major new information” is expected.

The decision comes after opposition parties complained that the First Minister’s regular television appearances would give her undue prominence during the election.

Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, said: "We have argued for months that public health officials could and should lead these briefings to deliver essential public health messages without SNP ministers using Covid-19 for political point scoring.

"The shameful decision to let the SNP continue these briefings will have deeply damaging consequences for democracy in Scotland."

The corporation insisted that it had a duty to fulfil its commitment to providing key public health information amid the pandemic.

BBC Scotland has confirmed plans to allow the opposition parties to contribute to some of its daily coronavirus briefings in the run up to the election in May. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
BBC Scotland has confirmed plans to allow the opposition parties to contribute to some of its daily coronavirus briefings in the run up to the election in May. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that she would not appear at all Scottish Government daily briefings during the campaign.

She said: "It will not be business as normal during the election campaign but we will still be in a crisis and therefore we need to make sure we are serving the public appropriately.

"If there are big decisions that we are having to make during the election period,” she added, “then I have a duty to communicate to the public what they are."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the BBC said: "Our aim is to ensure that our commitment to providing key public health information to our audiences continues to be fulfilled.

The decision comes after opposition parties complained that the First Minister’s regular television appearances would give her undue prominence during the election. (Photo by Michael Schofield - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“In all cases, our editorial decisions will be based on two considerations: the significance of the public health information to be discussed at the briefing, and the requirement for the BBC to exercise due impartiality during the election period."

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