NICOLA Sturgeon is to back Patrick Harvie’s case for the Scottish Greens to be regarded as a “large party” in a bid to give it parity of television coverage during the Holyrood election campaign.

Discussions have taken place between the two party leaders – who joined forces to campaign for a Yes vote in the independence referendum – and it is understood the First Minister will be putting forward her support in a submission to the BBC Trust which is consulting on the issue.

A SNP spokesman said last night: “The SNP will be responding and we will be making the case for the Greens to be included in the debates as a large party.”

Harvie said he was “optimistic” the BBC and broadcasting regulator Ofcom would revise its guidance, which currently regards the Scottish Greens as a “minor” party, meaning it can secure less airtime than the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The “minor” party status would also weaken its chances of taking part in any leaders’ debates.

Harvie also drew attention to last year’s general election televised leaders’ debates, which included the Green’s leader Natalie Bennett, as well as the SNP leader and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood.

A BBC leaders’ debate memorably ended with Sturgeon, Bennett and Wood embrace each other in a group hug, with Labour’s then-leader Ed Miliband forced to look on .

Harvie said: “It’s fantastic to see the SNP support our calls for parity from the BBC and Ofcom. The 2015 UK leaders’ debates were a clear example of how the political parties could collectively achieve fair and balanced broadcasting and we are grateful that this constructive approach continues in Scotland.”

More than six thousand people have signed a Greens’ petition calling for BBC and Ofcom to revise the “minor” status of the party.

“We are optimistic that the guidance will be revised to achieve the quality of coverage Scottish voters expect from their broadcasters.

“The Scottish Greens have a bold and progressive case to make for what Scotland can achieve from housing and energy, to education and health and we look forward to having the opportunity to make it.”

Earlier this month, leading polling expert Professor John Curtice said the BBC could justify reclassifying the Lib Dems as a “minor party” for May’s election.

Curtice said evidence from recent opinion polls suggested the Lib Dems, currently regarded as a larger party, had similar levels of support to the Scottish Greens.

The classification of the parties has been put forward in a BBC consultation on election guidelines.

The latest TNS opinion poll published before Christmas showed the Greens had more than double the support of the Lib Dems on the regional list ballot, with nine per cent of those polled indicating they would vote Green against four per cent for the Lib Dems.

However, while the Lib Dems are due to fight all first past the post seats, the Greens have plans to fight only three constituency seats.

Harvie and other senior members have already met senior BBC Scotland management over the issue.

The BBC Trust consultation document states: “Where the larger parties are featuring regularly, the Greens should have a minimum of one appearance a week on each appropriate programme strand.”

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “The voting shares achieved by the Green Party in Scottish national and local elections, together with available opinion poll evidence, means we are not proposing to add the party to the election broadcast list for Scotland.”

A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust said: “The Trust is holding a public consultation on election guidelines prepared by the BBC and anyone is welcome to make submissions. The Trust will make a final decision in February.”