THE SNP has called for a fairer proportion of airtime on the BBC’s flagship programme Question Time in the wake of the announcement that Fiona Bruce is to replace David Dimbleby as chair.

It follows complaints the the SNP has not featured on the programme as often as their status as the third largest party at Westminster would demand.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown and Hannah Bardell, the party’s media spokesperson at Westminster, said the appointment of the new host was a chance to introduce “fresh thinking and fairness” into how the panel is chosen.

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The SNP told The National that while they welcomed Bruce’s appointment there had to be greater diversity on the panel of the current affairs programme.

“Prior to Ian Blackford’s appearance on Thursday night SNP MPs and MSPs had only had only been on the Question Time panel six times in past 12 months,” pointed out Brown.

In contrast the LibDems had been booked for 22 appearances when they had been the third biggest party at Westminster.

Brown told The National: “The BBC claim that nothing has changed in their formula for choosing the panel but it is patently obvious that something has changed.

“The third party at Westminster has gone from being on the panel more often than they are not – to now being on once every couple of months.”

He added: “As the third party at Westminster, the second largest political party in terms of membership in the UK and the party of Government in Scotland this simply isn’t good enough.”

The National:

He said the programme generally had created “a legacy of mistrust”, particularly because of the frequency that Ukip representatives appeared on Question Time despite the party never having more than two MPs.

Between 2010 and 2017, members of Ukip appeared on one in four programmes, leading to accusations that the BBC had helped fuel the demand for Brexit by giving the British nationalists so much airtime.

“Now, with the arrival of Ms Bruce, there is an opportunity for a fresh start; the new chair must be complemented by transparency and fresh thinking,” said Brown.

Bardell added that while it was a very positive development that the programme was to be chaired by a woman, it would only count as substantial progress if it were reflected by greater diversity on the panel.

“The UK is not a two party state – and the BBC needs to catch up and recognise this,” she said.

“Far too often the programme is broadcast from London or somewhere within the greater metropolitan area. For it to reflect the nations and regions of the UK more adequately it should travel to further parts of the country that it hasn’t previously broadcast from.”

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When the programme was broadcast from Yes-voting Dundee on one occasion, Question Time bosses were accused of filling up the audience with No voters who then proceeded to give John Swinney a hard time.

Earlier this year, the BBC was also forced to defend its decision to invite former Ukip leader Nigel Farage on to the programme after a senior SNP MSP described it as “ridiculous”. The party has no MPs and is supported by just 2% of voters in the UK, according to recent polls.

Scotland’s Brexit spokesman Mike Russell said: “It is the BBC and its management that are now looking ridiculous, especially in Scotland where Ukip [which until this week had] a single elected representative yet gets more air time (via UK originated broadcasts shown in Scotland) than Scotland’s governing party (which is also UK’s third largest).”

Fiona Bruce has said it is “an honour” to be confirmed as the new chair, the first female full-time host in the show’s 40-year history. She is known for presenting the BBC News at Six and 10 and Antiques Roadshow.

A BBC spokesperson said factors used in creating Question Time panels are continually reviewed but include topicality, vote share and size of party.

They added Question Time visits “every part of the UK, including an appropriate number of appearances in Scotland based on population share”.

he number of times the show visits every part of the UK, including Scotland, is “based on population share.”

“A large number of factors influence the makeup of Question Time panels - topicality, news events such as elections or referendums; recent electoral performance including vote share; and size of the party in the relevant parliament or assembly. We continually review how we select panels.