I’ve complained to the BBC about the make-up of the panel on Thursday’s Question Time. I was prompted to do so by the Scottish Greens’ official complaint, which seems to me to be quite justified. The Scottish Lib Dems were also short-changed by the inclusion on the panel of George Galloway of Respect and Nigel Farage of UKIP (neither of which parties have significant electoral support in Scotland), but the Scottish Greens have plainly come off worse, only having appeared on Question Time once in 14 years of continual representation in the Scottish Parliament.
Although Question Time’s for a UK-wide audience, on the relatively rare occasions when it’s recorded in Scotland I think it has a responsibility to accurately reflect Scottish politics to the rest of the nation as well as to Scotland itself, and I don’t believe that was done on this occasion.
Here’s the text of my complaint. I could have said more, but after writing this and précising a bit to fit more in, I only had about five characters space left.
The selection of panellists, although the programme made a feature of the independence debate and took place a week before a by-election, did not appropriately represent political viewpoints within Scotland.
Two parties with significant electoral support and representation at Scottish Parliamentary level (the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Green Party) were excluded in favour of politicians whose parties have neither (Respect and UKIP).
I recognise that Question Time is intended for a UK-wide audience, but it does that audience no favours to misrepresent the politics of Scotland; particularly when this appears to form part of a pattern of under-representing the Scottish Green Party, who have appeared on Question Time only once in 14 years of Holyrood representation.
I have listened to suggestions from the BBC and David Dimbleby that (a) this was not an independence special requiring a reflective panel and (b) "Question Time does not follow by-elections and never has". They do not stand up and I do not accept them. On independence, the audience was selected with a particular feature of the referendum in mind, and split evenly in terms of opinion; and more than half the programme spent on an independence question when the independence debate was not particularly prominent in the week's news. Functionally, it's clear this was an independence special; and Question Time has clearly responded to a by-election as recently as February (live from Eastleigh).
If you want to watch the programme and judge for yourself, you can find it on the iPlayer for the next 12 months. There are only three questions covered in the programme, and the independence one is second. In an hour long programme, it runs from roughly 17:25 to 50:25, so about 33 minutes. Oh, and the "particular feature of the referendum" that I mentioned was age; the audience was made up of 16 and 17 year olds, because people of that age will be able vote in the referendum.