ALEX Salmond will not take part in the BBC’s election debate tomorrow night, The National can reveal.

The broadcaster said only the leaders of the five biggest political parties would be participating in the event which is to be hosted by journalist Sarah Smith.

Asked if the Alba Party would be taking party in the debate, a BBC Scotland spokesman said: “No, the leaders of the five larger parties will take part in the debate at 7.50 pm on Tuesday on BBC One Scotland.”

The programme presented by Smith will include a virtual audience from across Scotland.

When pressed that the Alba Party with two MPs has a larger Westminster representation than the Scottish Greens (which has no MPs) or Scottish Labour (which has one MP), the spokesman added: “Parties will be given appropriate and proportionate coverage in line with our editorial guidelines throughout the campaign.”

The programme will see Nicola Sturgeon, Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar, Willie Rennie and Patrick Harvie debate the big topics of the election campaign. It is due to take place on BBC One Scotland at 7.50pm and last one hour nine minutes.

It will be the first of a series of ­televised hustings to take place in the run up to polling day on May 6 with STV to announce its plans later this week.

However, with the announcement by Salmond on Friday that he is ­leading the new Alba Party into the election dominating the headlines and changing the central dynamics of the election campaign, his absence from the BBC debate may reduce the programme’s appeal to viewers.

His party is planning to stand at least four candidates in all eight ­regional lists in Scotland but will not put forward candidates for constituency seats.

As we went to press it was not known whether the Alba Party had approached the BBC about taking part in the TV debate tomorrow night. The Alba Party were approached for a comment.

STV are still finalising its election coverage plans and is expected to announce the programmes shortly.