THE First Minister has pulled out of a high profile media conference after organisers – including the BBC – invited Steve Bannon, the controversial right wing campaigner.

In a series of tweets Nicola Sturgeon said she was taking the stance because “I will not be part of any process that risks legitimising or normalising far right, racist views.

“I regret that the BBC has put me and others in this position.”

READ MORE: Twitter reacts to First Minister's refusal to appear with Steve Bannon

She added: “The email the BBC sent to my office justifying Bannon’s inclusion described him as a ‘powerful and influential figure ... promoting an anti-elite movement.’ This kind of language to describe views that many would describe as fascist does seem to me to run the risk of normalisation.”

Her decision to withdraw from the event was revealed by The Ferret investigative journalism collective yesterday.

The other organiser is the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) who say it is their “journalistic responsibility” to share and scrutinise a range of views. Other speakers who had been due to take part have also withdrawn from the three-day News Xchange event which takes place in Edinburgh on November 13.

Ash Sarkar, a senior editor at Novara Media said she would not take part in two panels she is scheduled to appear in, adding: “I won’t be complicit in the normalisation of fascism amongst the chattering classes.”

The BBC strongly defended their decision to invite Bannon, a former White House advisor to President Donald Trump and founder of the right-wing news brand Breitbart.

Listed as a “political strategist” on the conference programme, he is scheduled to appear in a prime slot in a one-to-one interview with BBC Scotland editor Sarah Smith.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Good journalism in a world of fake news and disinformation is more vital than ever. Journalism is about asking tough questions and understanding what is happening in the world and why.

“A conference designed to analyse the big issues impacting that world isn’t an endorsement of anyone or anything – it is a function of what journalism is.”

A statement posted on the EBU website last night also defended the decision. It reads: “Steve Bannon is a key influencer in the rise of populism – one of the dominant political trends of our times.

“We also consider it our journalistic responsibility to share and scrutinise a range of relevant viewpoints within the framework of a balanced debate. He will be interviewed about his views by a BBC journalist, followed by an open Q&A with delegates.”

Humza Yousaf MSP applauded the First Minister’s decision. Breitbart News has accused Yousaf of being “an Islamist-linked radical” in a news article in 2014, which was widely condemned.

He said: “I’ve been on the receiving end of Bannon and his acolytes’ slanderous hatred. The fact that BBC Scotland thinks it is okay to give Bannon a platform and describe him as an influential voice is insulting.”

Bannon was sacked as White House Chief Strategist in 2017 and ousted from Breitbart earlier this year, but continues to champion right-wing political causes. The New Yorker Festival disinvited him from appearing in a panel discussion in September.