THE SNP have pledged to establish a body to ensure “fair” election TV debates – both in the UK and an independent Scotland.

The party’s manifesto, which will be launched this week, will include a commitment to set up a regulator separate from broadcasters so that debates are planned, conducted and broadcast with “complete impartiality”.

It will be set up while Scotland is still part of the UK, with new legislation to monitor election debate broadcasting also to be put in place in an independent nation.

The move comes after the SNP – together with the LibDems – lost a legal challenge against ITV over its decision to exclude their leaders from its General Election debate last week.

Government Business and Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said Scottish parties did not have a fair chance to be heard by Scottish audiences while the UK-wide parties get “vastly more exposure beamed into people’s homes in Scotland, night after night during a campaign”.

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Writing in the Sunday National Seven Days supplement he said: “A system which meets the fundamental test of democracy has to ensure that all the parties get broadly equal air time and broadly the same opportunity to be heard.

“Presently broadcasters present a view of the election in which the SNP – a choice available to every Scottish voter and with the third highest number of seats at Westminster – gets only a fraction of the coverage given to the Tory, Labour or Liberal parties when broadcasting output is considered as a whole.”

Russell dismissed the “old argument” that the focus should only be on the two largest parties which can form a UK government, saying elections are also about each individual constituency.

He said it meant parties such as the SNP and Greens were “massively disadvantaged” by being excluded from debates – adding it was a point the BBC, ITV and Sky failed to grasp because of “deep seated metropolitan bias” towards Westminster.

He added: “Consequently it is essential that there is a body separate from the broadcasters which is charged with the duty, at election time, of ensuring that debates are planned, conducted and broadcast with complete impartiality and rigorous fairness.

“This week’s SNP manifesto will repeat our commitment to legislation to establish such a body whilst we are still part of the UK. We must also entrench such arrangements for elections in an independent Scotland.”

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Two judges last week ruled that the decision of ITV not to include Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon was not open to challenge in the courts and there had been no breach of the broadcasting code.

The judgment said the parties’ only course of action was to complain to broadcasting regulator Ofcom after the debate aired.

Speaking after the ruling, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “It is already clear that the Westminster political system is utterly broken and incapable of properly representing Scotland’s interests.

“What is now clear is that the UK broadcasting system is similarly incapable.”

The Liberal Democrats had argued they should be included to ensure a “voice of Remain” was heard.

Sturgeon – who won praise for her performance in a Question Time leaders’ special on Friday – has accused the Prime Minister of “running scared” by refusing to take part in a debate with her.

Last week Boris Johnson ruled out going head-to-head with her saying it would only be appropriate to debate with “whoever theoretically could be the next prime minister”.

The Scottish Greens have also criticised a decision by STV to exclude the party from its election debate on December 3, which will have the leaders from Labour, the SNP, Conservatives and LibDems. Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will take part in a BBC debate on December 6.