TWO top SNP figures have accused the BBC of deliberately demoting the status of the third party at Westminster.

A joint letter sent to the BBC by SNP depute leader Keith Brown and Westminster leader Ian Blackford raises “two formal complaints” against the broadcaster.

First, the SNP say their status as the third biggest party at Westminster is being actively downplayed by BBC editors and managers because they only represent Scotland.

READ: Brown and Blackford's full complaint to BBC over 'failing' Scotland

Second, they say the broadcaster is failing to serve all audiences equally by continually under-representing them on flagship shows like Politics Live and Newsnight.

After key Brexit votes were held in the House of Commons this week, the BBC on two occasions broadcast both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s responses, but cut away as the SNP’s Westminster leader began speaking. They also cut away from the Commons just as Blackford was standing up to give his opening remarks in the original debate over May’s deal on Tuesday.

The SNP are the third largest party at Westminster and the party of government in Scotland.

The letter from Brown and Blackford argues that the BBC’s news and current affairs programming is falling below the standards of its editorial guidelines.

The pair also say the BBC is “in breach of its mission and responsibility” to serve licence fee payers across every UK country, erasing the SNP from its coverage by “consistent and deliberate editorial decisions”.

The letter continues: “This pattern of behaviour follows recent research and media reports which revealed that Newsnight did not feature a single SNP politician in the entirety of February.

“And in January, the revelation that Politics Live had just two SNP guest slots out of a total of 79 guest slots.

“We would like to understand how the BBC believe they are serving the audience in Scotland in each of these examples.

“Therefore, regarding our first complaint, it is our contention that BBC coverage of Westminster parliamentary business is suggestive of a deliberate policy of BBC editors and managers to demote the status of the third party at Westminster because that party represents only Scotland.

“Regarding our second complaint, we contend that the under-representation of the SNP from flagship programmes such as Politics Live and Newsnight provide evidence of a continuing failure by the BBC – set out over a decade ago in the highly critical King Report – to serve all audiences in the UK in equal measures.

“We look forward to receiving your response to both complaints.”

A BBC spokesperson confirmed to us: “We have received the letter and will respond directly in due course.”

When we asked the BBC earlier this week about its decisions to cut away from Blackford, they pointed to his speech being broadcast in full on the BBC Parliament channel. However, Brown and Blackford reject this defence, saying that the viewing figures of the other channel are far smaller.

BBC One, which showed both May’s statements and Corbyn’s responses, would likely have had an average audience share of around 22.25%. Blackford’s speech was broadcast on the BBC Parliament channel, which has an audience share of just 0.06%.

In one broadcast, the BBC went on to interview Nigel Farage after cutting from Blackford.

The BBC told us earlier this week: “Mr Blackford’s speech was broadcast in full on BBC Parliament and a broad range of voices appeared on our coverage across various platforms throughout the day – including Stephen Gethins on the BBC News Channel – in what was a fast paced breaking news story.”

Blackford appeared on the BBC’s Question Time last night.