DESPITE having more than three times the number of Liberal Democrat party members and consistently doing better in the pools, the Scottish Green Party is set to be treated as a "minor party" on commercial television and radio while the Lib Dems will continue to enjoy major status.

As reported in The National earlier this week, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom looks ready to maintain the status of all the Scottish parties that it decreed before last May’s General Election. The SNP, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives, and the Lib Dems will be ‘major parties’ entitled to four party political broadcasts and involvement in key debates and panels.

The Scottish Greens have been bracketed with UKIP as a minor party and will be entitled to two party political broadcasts and it will be up to the broadcasters whether they are included in leadership debates as it will not be compulsory for them to be involved, unlike the major parties.

The Scottish Greens said in a statement that Ofcom “is proposing guidance which would deny the party equal coverage in the forthcoming Holyrood election”.

The party, which is projected to have nine MSPs in May on the basis of current opinion polls, launched an online petition at the weekend in light of similar proposals by the BBC. So far more than 5,000 people have signed the petition.

Though they won no seats in Scotland last May – Alistair Carmichael was the only Liberal Democrat to survive – the Scottish Greens polled around eight per cent in 2015, nearly double the 4.4 per cent achieved in 2011 and well ahead of Lib Dems’ average of 5.7 per cent.

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “Five parties have been in the Scottish Parliament since the start and we’re one of them. We’re on course to play a greater role in the next parliament, so the public deserve to hear from us whether via the BBC or STV.

“We’re grateful for the support we’ve had from the public since the BBC’s proposals became known on Sunday. It’s a concern that the commercial regulator has similarly failed to take into account our strong polling, surging membership and the high approval ratings for Patrick Harvie.

“We will of course make formal submissions to both, and would encourage others to do so, as the case for equal treatment is extremely strong. We look forward to revised guidance being produced.”

Ofcom stated that it “places greater weight on performance in previous elections, which reflects how voters exercised their democratic choice, than opinion poll ratings. There is also a relative lack of opinion polling data since the 2015 General Election.” The consultation document added: “The evidence in relation to the Liberal Democrats in Scotland is finely balanced. The party demonstrated a significant level of support in the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary elections and a relatively high performance in directly-elected seats in 2011 (but lower than 2007).

“Opinion polls suggest low levels of current support for the Liberal Democrats. However, on balance, our proposal is that the Liberal Democrats should remain on the list of larger parties for Scotland.”