Swinney calls for ‘respectful’ Scottish leaders’ TV debate

Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney has called for a “respectful” contest ahead of the Scottish leaders’ first television debate of the election campaign.

STV will host the debate in which SNP leader Mr Swinney, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton will discuss key issues ahead of the General Election.

Despite being the third biggest party at Holyrood, the Scottish Greens will not be represented, a decision they described as “outrageous”.

STV has said they are comfortable their election coverage complies with Ofcom rules around due impartiality.

General Election campaign 2024
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross will be taking part (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“I have been leader of the SNP for just a few weeks, and I have already united my party ahead of what is a very important election.

“Scotland’s people and public services have suffered as a result of austerity, Brexit and the cost of living crisis, all of which were made in Westminster.

“In tonight’s debate, and in the election campaign ahead, I and the SNP will set out a genuine alternative to the broken Westminster status quo.

“I will be asking people to unite behind the SNP on July 4 to put Scotland’s interests first.”

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said the Scottish people want the focus of the election to be their real priorities, such as public services and good jobs, rather than the SNP’s “endless independence obsession”.

He said: “During the debate, John Swinney will face scrutiny on his fixation with breaking up the UK, as well as his shameful handling of the Michael Matheson scandal.

“At Holyrood, Douglas Ross has held the SNP to account, including removing Humza Yousaf.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the election is “a chance for change that we cannot afford to miss”.

He said: “Right across Scotland people have been paying the price for Tory economic turmoil, with bills soaring while wages fall behind.

“It is time for the chaos to end – Scotland needs change.

“Labour will end the Tory-made cost-of-living crisis with our plans to make work pay, drive down energy bills, and deliver the economic stability our country desperately needs.

“In tonight’s debate I am not just arguing for myself – I will be fighting for change for every single person in Scotland struggling at the hands of this dysfunctional and incompetent Tory Government.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said he is looking forward to the debate.

He said: “Elections aren’t won or lost on a TV debate, but this is a chance to pitch our message of hope and change to the people of Scotland.

2024 General Election key dates
(PA Graphics)

The Scottish Greens do not hold any Scottish seats at Westminster and had just one MP in the last Parliament, who has since retired.

The 90-minute programme will be hosted by STV’s political editor Colin Mackay, from the broadcaster’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow, at 9pm.

A spokesman for STV said: “Under the terms of our licences, STV’s programmes must comply with the Ofcom Broadcast Code and its rules around due impartiality.

“We are comfortable that our election coverage, including the leaders’ debate, meets these guidelines.”

A spokesman for UK communications regulator Ofcom said: “Ofcom does not determine the line-up or format of any leaders’ debates.

“These are editorial matters for the broadcasters, who must comply with our rules on due impartiality.”

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