The BBC has been forced to alter the line-up of the panel on this week’s Question Time after it emerged there would be no Scottish Government representation in the original line-up.
The programme, to be broadcast this week from Inverness, was trailed on the BBC’s own webpages as having a panel made up of three Unionist politicians, a London based journalist and an actor.
The actor, Alan Cumming, was the only panel representative supportive of Scottish independence, whilst the journalist, Melanie Philips is a well-known right leaning Unionist. The original panel line-up also included Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont.
However, following complaints and fierce online debate over the apparent omission, it has emerged that Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will now sit alongside Mr Cumming.
The panel now also includes leading No campaign member, Lib Dem Charles Kennedy alongside former Conservative Minister Lord Forsyth. Kennedy replaces Lib Dem MP and Treasury Minister Danny Alexander, who was listed in the original line-up.
However, the four against two line-up has been criticised by SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson who has called for balance in debates that will feature the independence referendum.
Mr Gibson said: “It is inevitable that independence will be discussed on this week’s Question Time, and it would be in the best interests of a fair and measured debate if the BBC invited equal numbers of panellists from both the Yes and No campaigns.
“In future the BBC should ensure a balanced panel, from both sides of the referendum debate, whenever independence is expected to be discussed.”
A Question Time spokeswoman defended the panel selection and said: “This Thursday’s programme in Inverness is a regular edition of Question Time, rather than a special programme on independence.
“We have picked a balanced panel reflecting a range of political views and debates in both Scotland and the UK as a whole. The range of questions about Scotland, the UK or international politics is, as always, down to our audience on the night.”
Mr Gibson’s comments follow the news that the BBC will introduce guidelines in an attempt at preventing reporters from using Unionist inspired terms when describing independence. Words like “separation”, “divorce” and “break-up” are to be ditched in favour of more appropriate phrases.