THE BBC has been forced to issue an apology after their Newsnight backdrop was emblazoned with large logos of the Tories, LibDems, Labour and Ukip – but not the SNP.

Despite the SNP taking over from the LibDems as the third largest party in Westminster with Ukip having no MPs whatsoever, presenter Emily Maitlis carried on an interview with the controversial backdrop behind her.

An outcry from infuriated Scottish viewers resulted in an apology from the BBC yesterday.

“Newsnight was covering the changing landscape of UK politics, and particularly the speculation around the formation of new so-called ‘centrist’ party,” said a spokesperson.

“The studio backdrop featured the logos of several political parties, including those most closely associated with recent speculation about MPs potentially breaking away to form a new grouping. The SNP was not the focus of the discussion, but nonetheless the programme team accept that, as the third biggest party in the UK parliament, its logo should have been included. Newsnight apologises for the omission.”

Keith Brown, depute leader of the SNP, said the party had accepted the BBC’s apology: “We accept their apology on this occasion and will continue to press for a fairer share of news and current affairs coverage on this programme and across the BBC network.”

The controversy follows The National’s revelation yesterday that the BBC’s flagship Question Time had featured a failed Scottish Ukip candidate in the audience for the fourth time.

Billy Mitchell won a huge round of applause from a Unionist-heavy audience for his rant attacking the SNP’s push for independence.

But eagle-eyed watchers recognised the man from his contributions to the show when it came to Stirling in 2013, and in 2016, and then from last year, when it was in Kilmarnock in 2017.

According to the journalist Pennie Taylor, Mitchell was also in the audience for a pilot episode of the new BBC Scotland channel’s own version of Question Time, which was filmed on Wednesday night.

Yesterday Brown said the SNP had raised questions over Question Time’s apparent bias and hoped to meet BBC bosses soon to discuss the issue. “Question Time has got itself in a real mess in recent weeks and is embroiled in a deepening row with the Labour party,” he pointed out.

“Even before this week’s programme, the SNP had big concerns. To maintain the confidence of the audience it is important that Question Time displays the same transparency and accountability around its decision making as it expects from panellists.

“To start with, we want to see a fairer proportion of airtime on the BBC’s flagship programme. We are in communication with the BBC and look forward to meeting them soon.”

The issue of bias on Question Time has been raised repeatedly, particularly because of the frequency that Ukip representatives appear 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.

And while the SNP have replaced the LibDems as the third biggest political party at Westminster their representatives have not been given as much airtime on the programme.

In 2016 alone, the SNP appeared only 14 times while in 2014, the year before the 2015 General Election, the LibDems appeared 22 times.