SNP candidate Jean Urquhart will not take part in the BBC’s election hustings debate on Friday unless her independent rival Billy Fox is invited to sit on the platform.
She has made a formal complaint to the BBC and written to director general Mark Thompson asking him to reconsider the corporation’s policy of refusing to let candidates with no significant history of electoral support participate fully in such debates.
Mr Fox said last week he had refused to take part in the hustings in protest at his treatment by the BBC and would instead hold a question and answer session in the Shetland Museum and Archives once the debate had finished. He won support from Conservative candidate Sandy Cross, although Mr Cross did not indicate he would not take part if the BBC refused to change its mind.
Mrs Urquhart said the BBC should reconsider the policy in light of the needs of the Shetland community that the BBC purported fairly to represent.
“I believe this to be a piece of nonsense and hugely unfair to the candidate the democratic process, but most of all to the folk in Shetland who would like to hear what each of those seeking election has to say,” she said.
“I have no doubt that everyone who works for the radio station in Shetland is keen to allow all candidates to have their voice and this complaint is not critical of the team who run Radio Shetland. However, the inflexibility in making any exception to a policy which may be suited to other parts of the UK, is showing the BBC in a poor light. Regional stations clearly need to have regional policies devised to suit their own social and geographical location.
“I hope to have a positive response from Mr Thompson before the hustings on Friday 22nd, but if that is not forthcoming, then I will not be taking part.”