THE details of the first debate of the general election campaign have been announced, and it's a stitch up between the Conservatives and Labour.

ITV will broadcast the debate on June 4 and it will be a head-to-head between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer with no other party leaders invited.

This is a presidential style debate but the UK does not have a presidential system.

The UK is - in theory at least - a parliamentary democracy.

However, when it suits them the leaders of the Labour and Conservative parties like to pretend that Britain does have a presidential system even as they vigorously resist any attempt to reform the House of Commons and place the checks, balances, and restrictions on the power of the head of government that a real presidential system entails.

As such this debate is another step in the debasement of politics under the Westminster system and a signal that for all his talk of 'change' Keir Starmer represents nothing of the sort.

READ MORE: John Swinney slams ITV for excluding SNP from election debate

The announcement of the debate comes after report in The Guardian newspaper last week which said Labour had "demanded" that the other parties be excluded from TV debates. There's respect for democracy for you. Respecting democracy is a change that would be very welcome in the UK, but it's not a change that Keir Starmer is interested in delivering.

Labour are very keen to frame this election as a straight fight between Sunak and Starmer as they see this as being to their electoral benefit. It allows Starmer to concentrate on winning over former Tory voters in Leave supporting seats in England while avoiding attacks from the left from the SNP on topics like the two child benefit cap or renationalisation, as well as having the additional benefit of ensuring that there is no risk of criticism over Starmer's stance on Gaza.

It also has the 'benefit' of ignoring half of Scotland. Don't expect either Sunak or Starmer to lose any sleep over that.

Michael Jermey, ITV’s director of news and current affairs, said:

“Millions of viewers value the election debates. They provide a chance to see and hear the party leaders set out their pitch to the country, debate directly with each other and take questions from voters.

The National: What has changed since ITV's last leadership debates when all parties were included?What has changed since ITV's last leadership debates when all parties were included?

"ITV is pleased to be broadcasting the first debate in this year’s election campaign.”

The 'country'. So, England then. Scotland is peripheral to this general election campaign and how Scotland votes will make no significant difference to the outcome.

This debate will also be broadcast by STV, which is supposed to serve a country in which the political landscape is very different.

It is an anti-democratic distortion of reality to pretend that voters in Scotland are being presented with a straight choice between Labour and the Conservatives.

Democracy demands that at the very least every party that had MPs elected at the last General Election should be included in general election debates. The SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Lib Dems should all be represented in the debates.

Speaking in Fife at the opening of the new Leven rail link, First Minister John Swinney said: “I think it’s ridiculous that the third party in UK politics is being excluded from the debates that are being taken forward.

READ MORE: SNP snubbed as ITV announce first General Election debate

“Now we’re making strenuous representations to the broadcasters about that point and we’ll continue to do so because this is a democratic process and the third largest party should be integral to these discussions.”

But it suits both British nationalist parties not to have the SNP represented.

Starmer wants to defeat the SNP not in order to get the Tories out - there are few Scottish seats which are a contest between Labour and the Tories.

He wants to defeat the SNP in order to get back to Westminster business as usual of ignoring Scotland.

If you vote Labour in Scotland you are not voting to get rid of a loathsome Conservative government, you are voting to be put back into the Union flag branded shortbread tin.

BBC faces criticism for ‘dismal’ election coverage in Scotland

Meanwhile, in the hoary tradition of British general elections, the BBC has come under fire for its "dismal" election coverage as the SNP depute leader Keith Brown (below) demanded the corporation works to make its coverage of the election fairer.

He took to social media to criticise how BBC News and BBC Scotland had devoted “a dismal 24 words of election coverage to SNP content” as of the end of Monday.

He added that the BBC network election coverage had just two interviews with SNP figures over the weekend, noting: "We are almost a week into the campaign. Fair coverage must start NOW."

Similar complaints were made about the BBC's coverage of the 2019 general election campaign when then SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the corporation of “glaringly obvious” disregard for devolution and “systematically” omitting Scotland and the SNP from stories.

The National: Keith Brown

Naturally nothing has changed with the BBC, and nothing is going to change.

Labour should follow SNP on public ownership of railways

The Levenmouth rail link restores railway service to a part of Fife that has been without it for over 50 years.

The Scottish Government has brought ScotRail into public ownership, delivered new rail lines and stations and is piloting the removal of peak fares.

Speaking at the opening of the new railway line, the First Minister called on Labour to commit to the nationalisation of the railways in the rest of the UK.

He called on Starmer to “follow the SNP’s lead” by nationalising rail services in England.

The First Minister said: “The SNP’s record in government shows what is possible with a government operating from the left of centre – we’ve brought ScotRail into public ownership, invested in new infrastructure and taken action to drive down ticket prices, saving people hundreds of pounds during the cost-of-living crisis.

READ MORE: 'Historic': John Swinney opens Levenmouth rail link

“This is the approach Keir Starmer must take in government rather than simply continuing with Tory austerity. He should commit to a significant infrastructure investment programme to reverse the cuts to Scotland’s capital budget and invest in the future.

"He needs to follow the SNP’s lead by taking rail services south of the border into public hands – and finish the job by nationalising Network Rail and cross-border services.”

No wonder Starmer is desperate to exclude the SNP from debates.

They'd only show him up for the Tory mini-me he really is and expose his promise of "change" as just another of his many lies.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

To receive our full newsletter including this analysis straight to your email inbox, click HERE and click the "+" sign-up symbol for the REAL Scottish Politics