SO John Swinney was surprised to find out that only Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer would go head-to-head in the first televised leaders’ debate of the General Election campaign on ITV on Tuesday evening. What else did he expect? Despite being the third-largest party at Westminster, the SNP are basically considered as irrelevant in that arena. Unless they hold the balance of power after July 4 (an unlikely event), they will continue to be so.

STV are hosting a leaders’ debate on Monday night with the four party leaders in the Scottish Parliament, three of whom will no doubt concentrate on matters devolved to that parliament – to the detriment of the SNP. What is the point of a so-called debate when the relevant UK subject matter which should be debated is almost entirely reserved to Westminster?

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If STV really feel the need for a debate, why not have four or more candidates who are actually standing in the UK election? Stephen Flynn and whoever Labour, the Tories, Liberals and even Alba and the Greens can muster. That might be a programme worth watching!

The SNP have also criticised the BBC for its entire election coverage. I know this will prove far too radical a suggestion for the SNP leadership, but perhaps the time has arrived for them to take the next positive step and promote a campaign of non-payment of TV licences. “No pay without a say” has a certain ring to it. If they are unwilling to do this they lose the moral ability to complain when the BBC continue on the same policy track until and beyond the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2026.

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In any case I think I will try my best to avoid all of the debates. In my 50 years of being interested in Scottish politics I can only remember one occasion where the outcome of an election was influenced in any real way by a TV debate. In November 1988 Jim Sillars overturned a Labour majority of 13,000 in Glasgow Govan. Jim got 14,677 votes to Labour candidate Bob Gillespie’s 11,123 – a swing of 33% from Labour to the SNP. By most accounts the turning point, in what was already a brilliant SNP campaign, was a last-minute TV debate which took place between the candidates. Gillespie was completely wrong-footed by Sillars, who asked him for his position on European Community policy in language Bob just did not understand.

Brian Lawson

LET’S upset the biased media. We all know Monday night's debate should be among Westminster candidates: Stephen Flynn; Ian Murray; a Tory, say John Lamont; LibDem, Alba and Green candidates who are all standing in the General Election.

Let’s not play their game, let’s send Stephen Flynn (no disrespect to John Swinney) and keep the answers to only reserved matters.

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This is nothing but a MEDIA TRAP and we are walking straight into it with both feet.

Act now, SNP, and be radical. I don’t want on Tuesday to say “I TOLD YOU SO”.

Ken McCartney

AS a humanitarian I like to think that at a very basic level we must all have something in common.

I, for example, like Jacob Rees-Mogg do not own a pair of jeans…

A small, insignificant detail, but I found it.

However, when it comes to Boris Johnson’s latest attention-seeking announcement I draw a blank.

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Following Trump’s criminal conviction on all 34 counts (previously, it should be noted, he was found liable in a civil court for sexual abuse and then defamation of his victim), Johnson decided that a good way to get the media pointing back in his direction was to state that this was a “liberal stitch-up”.

I have followed the tortuous proceedings before an experienced and endlessly patient judge, from the initial fear and intimidation of potential jurors to the final outcome. But you do not need to have done that to know that the latest de Pfeffel Johnson blithering is turd soup.

Whether even he believes what he says or whether, like Farage, he sees some future for himself beside the orange ball of vitriol, is both up for grabs and immaterial now.

The very fact of the big red bus liar saying something so undermining of democracy, so crass, so cunningly calculated to cause nothing but more harm to our trust in the political system, sets him and decent people so far apart I do begin to wonder about the whole notion of common humanity.

Amanda Baker

WHEN you think about it, Trump’s behaviour is not so different from that of a toddler. Neither really thinks that there are rules that apply to them, and when there are consequences he throws a tantrum and tells you it’s unfair.

It’s not difficult to see the same behaviour among MPs and MSPs of certain parties, but we have been so conditioned to thinking they are all the same or can’t be bothered arguing with the false equivalences that many of us just give in to the tantrum.

Alan Thompson

SOME time ago I scribed on this page about the seat in the Western Isles being gifted to Labour due to arrogance and blatant petulance. Alas, in the intervening period nothing has changed and Labour will cruise to victory due to a split independence vote.

What a sorry state of affairs this is. If this is a taste of things to come then we are sunk without trace in 2026. It is a totally unsatisfactory situation. We will be a laughing stock and rightly so.

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I have confidently added Labour’s Torcuil Crichton to my accumulator for the General Election as he looks to be a shoo-in. No doubt the answer after the vote will be that the usual lessons will be learned. If the vote goes the way I think it is going to, I am sure I will not be the only one who will most certainly learn a lesson.

Old John