This is a part of the content of the letter sent by Alba to the BBC seeking parity of TV coverage during the election period. An important act of securing democratic fairness.
Chief Political Adviser
British Broadcasting Corporation Broadcast Centre BC2 A1
201 Wood Lane
Alba Party and leader Alex Salmond Participation in election broadcasts
Estate Agents Solicitors Notaries Public 513 Clarkston Road, Muirend, Glasgow, G44 3PN
Tel: 0141 637 2434
Fax: 0141 237 3473 firstname.lastname@example.org
We are instructed by the Alba Party and its leader Mr Alex Salmond. Our clients seek the following from you as a broadcaster covering the campaign for the election on 6 May 2021
- The full participation of Mr Salmond as Alba Party leader in all future Leaders’ Debates;
- The participation of Alba candidates and spokespeople in all other cross-party debates on an equal footing with all other parties;
- Mr Salmond to be included in the list of one-to-one interviews with party leaders, on an equal footing with the other five party leaders;
- Alba to be given equal and fair coverage in all programmes covering the election, including news bulletins and daily reports. This should be reflected in UK network coverage of the election, as well as that by the Scottish based broadcasters; and
- Alba to be given at least one Party Election Broadcast.
We are pleased to note from material now received that the last of these is guaranteed to our clients in consequence of the number of candidates which the Alba Party is fielding on the Regional List and our clients look forward to hearing further from the BBC as to arrangements in this regard.
- We do not propose to rehearse this in any detail as for all practical purposes matters come down to Sections Five and Six of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, with which you will of course be all too familiar. Indeed, we would suggest, one need hardly look further than the foundational principles of those two Sections in order to recognise the compelling case for what is sought by our clients in items 1-5 above to be now afforded to them.
Broadcasters must cover elections with due impartiality, they must give due weight to the coverage of parties during the election period, and they must consider giving appropriate coverage to parties with significant views and perspectives. uL,v
Principal Solicitor: Elizabeth June Coyle, MA(Hons), DipLP, NP
Solicitor Advocate: Gordon Dangerfield, LLB(Hons), DipLP, NP, BA(Hons), MA
It is well established that “due” is an important qualification to the concept of both impartiality and weight. In assessing both “due impartiality” and “due weight”, context is crucial.
That being the case, Sarah Smith, the moderator of the first Leaders’ Debate broadcast by the BBC on 30 March 2021 was surely correct when she introduced the context of the present campaign in these terms: “It’s likely to be a campaign like no other.”
The unique context of this election – the context in which the “due weight” to be given to coverage of the Alba Party such that “due impartiality” is achieved falls to be assessed- is of course that a former First Minister is now leader of a new party with a new central policy of seeking a “supermajority” in the Scottish Parliament for independence. This new policy now put forward by the Alba Party is one which would for the first time in the life of the Scottish Parliament ensure the active participation of not just the Scottish Government but the whole of the Parliament, and by extension the Scottish people, in urgent negotiations with the UK Government on Scotland’s independence.
The emergence of the Alba Party with Mr Salmond as leader, and of this new policy has undoubtedly transformed the election campaign and reinvigorated the constitutional debate, pushing it front and centre of the election and, as noted by Ms Smith, setting the campaign apart from all of its predecessors
Accordingly, this policy and the fullest discussion of it, both for and against, cannot be other than a significant perspective deserving of due and significant weight.
Some further factors requiring “due weight”
Although Alba is a brand new party with no “past electoral performance” by definition, it has already achieved double the Scottish parliamentary representation at Westminster of the Labour Party, it has already recruited significant numbers of new members and councillors and it is led, as already noted, by a former First Minister of Scotland.
As you know, the criterion of being one of the “larger” parties is no longer part of Ofcom’s core guidance on election participation. In any event, at around 2.00 p.m. today after exactly one week of public existence, membership of the Alba Party reached 4,100 and thus overtook the last officially published figure for the Scottish Liberal Democrats who have been around in one guise or another for 150 years. As one of the traditionally regarded “larger” parties, the Liberal ‘s right of full participation in election coverage has been accepted without question, as evidenced by their leader’s participation in the first televised debate.
- The Alba Party is fielding 32 candidates on the Regional List. These candidates include 18 women, 14 men, 7 serving elected councillors, 6 current or former parliamentarians, 3 BAME candidates, 3 candidates with disabilities, 2 serving Members of Parliament, one Gaelic speaker, one former champion boxer and one former First Minister.
The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier today made a statement setting out her view that Alex Salmond and Alba must not be included in future debates. The First Minister clearly thinks she gets to determine who, and who does not, get to take part in these important tests where political leaders face searching questions from the professional media and also their political rivals. She does not have that right. That type of thing perhaps happens in fascist states but this country remains a democracy and excluding political rivals from democratic discussion and scrutiny is not in the gift of one Party or its Leader.
Ms Sturgeon until recently has been regarded as a formidable television performer. It seems strange that suddenly she wants to avoid discussing issues or debating and facing questioning. She is obviously worried about confronting someone she has spent the entire campaign so far continuing to smear in the most disgusting fashion. Sooner or later she will have too. The courts determined that when he was cleared of every single allegation concocted by many of Ms Sturgeon’s supporters. That plan to remove Mr Salmond from the political map of Scotland has failed. The FM continuing to act as if the jury had found him guilty, rather than innocent, is a serious character flaw and is dividing her own Party who are increasingly facing internal division because of it.
The more so because the Former First Minister, Alex Salmond refuses to respond to the smears and innuendo, advocates his supporters support the SNP in the constituency ballot, and rises about the damaging personal attacks as he seeks a supermajority that would greatly reinforce Scotland’s campaign to secure our Independence. This is something everyone in favour of Independence should welcome. It is time to Max the YES AND Unite the YES.
I am, as always
Yours for Scotland
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at 7pm Tonight Alba launched their £50000 crowdfunder for campaign materials