‘Insult to voters!’ Nicola Sturgeon shamed after snubbing BBC Newsnight election special

Nicola Sturgeon grilled on her 'record' as First Minister

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The SNP will be the only party not represented by their leader in Thursday evening’s programme, which will feature questions from a virtual audience. The Scottish Conservatives will by represented by Douglas Ross, Scottish Labour by Anas Sarwar, Liberal Democrats by Willie Rennie and Greens by co-leader Lorna Slater. But Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will not appear, with the SNP instead set to be represented by deputy leader Keith Brown.

On April 12, BBC Question Time emailed each party press office to state they were “inviting Scottish Party leaders to take part in the show”, The Herald newspaper has reported.

Sources from opposition parties had reportedly been told to expect an all-leaders televised debate, but Ms Sturgeon had pulled out after initially agreeing to take part.

The SNP has hit back at these claims, and a spokesperson said: “There has never been any suggestion that the First Minister would be taking part in this debate.

“The BBC did not include Question Time in their requests for leaders participation.

“The SNP was asked for an SNP representative and the SNP’s Depute Leader will be appearing.

“It is for other parties who they chose to put forward to represent their parties.”

But the SNP’s rivals have launched a furious attack against Ms Sturgeon for not joining her rival party leaders to take part in the BBC Newsnight special.

Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign chair Alistair Carmichael added: “After a shaky campaign where she has been repeatedly taken to task for her failings on education, care homes and social care, Nicola Sturgeon has now gone AWOL.

“This was pitched to us in the Liberal Democrats as an event for party leaders.

“Despite what SNP spin doctors might say, it is obvious that they are trying to protect Nicola Sturgeon’s reputation from further damage caused by SNP failures.

“It’s an insult to voters to put up Keith Brown, a man who was shuffled out of the SNP government after his disastrous involvement in a failed Chinese investment that its own fixer described as ‘all boll*cks’.

A Scottish Labour source said: “Nicola Sturgeon is treating this election like a coronation tour – hiding from scrutiny from the press and the public.

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“People deserve the right to question their leaders and running scared just confirms the woeful state of the SNP’s record. Scotland deserves better.”

Scottish Conservative candidate for Glasgow Annie Wells said: “Nicola Sturgeon is trying to dodge scrutiny and send in her backup Keith Brown because she doesn’t want to face questions about her record on drug deaths, jobs, schools or her divisive plans for another independence referendum.

“The SNP are at it with their pathetic excuses. As early as the 8th of March, BBC bosses were telling the Scottish Conservatives they wanted all five party leaders. Question Time clearly asked for Nicola Sturgeon and they’ve been forced to accept her lackey instead.

“Trying to weasel their way out of this is an embarrassment. The SNP should own this – they are afraid of scrutiny and Nicola Sturgeon is scared of facing direct challenges from voters.”

Ms Sturgeon has appeared in Scottish election televised debates on the BBC and STV alongside her opposition leaders.

A third debate is set to be hosted by Channel 4, with a second BBC debate to take place in the same week as the election on May 6.

But in the televised debates she has taken part in so far, Ms Sturgeon has faced a barrage of criticism, over the SNP’s record in Government, campaign for Scottish independence and handling of the Covid pandemic.

Responding to the criticisms, an SNP spokesperson said: “The First Minister has been scrutinised by the media nearly every day over the last year and since the campaign began has taken part in numerous hustings, two TV debates and a number of interviews as well as meeting members of the public to answer their question directly.

“In fact she will be taking part in a phone-in with members of the public on Thursday evening.

“The SNP will continue to focus on engaging with the voters, offering the experienced leadership and ideas for the future that are needed to get us through and out of the pandemic and ensuring the people of Scotland have the right to choose their future, while other parties continue to offer nothing but negativity and navel gazing.”

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