TV court ruling

Johnson: ‘I’ll never debate Scotland’s future with Sturgeon’

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House

Boris Johnson says he won’t debate with Nicola Sturgeon (pic: Terry Murden)

Boris Johnson has declared he will never go into a head-to-head debate over the future of Scotland with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.

The Prime Minister also ruled out a second independence referendum while he is in Downing Street.

“Once Nicola Sturgeon takes leadership of a party in Parliament and is a serious contender to be prime minister of the UK, that would be the appropriate moment,” he told the Daily Record.

“The appropriate thing in this election is for me to contest the debates with whoever theoretically could be the next prime minister.”

He added: “I am devoted to campaigning for election in the whole of the UK and I am afraid Nicola Sturgeon, all she can do, is support a coalition of chaos.”

On independence, he said: “I understand people’s feelings and I respect these feelings but the promise in 2104 was very important. I think we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of Scotland to the union.

“When I see investments in Rosyth, in Govan, massive success for this country, the environment summit in Glasgow next year, which will be wonderful for the whole UK, and the £9 or £10 billion that goes to Scotland each year as result of membership of the union.

“It really grieves me that this should be pulled apart.”

His comments came as Ms Sturgeon and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson were excluded from a prime-time television clash.

Judges ruled it was lawful because there was “no arguable breach” of the broadcast code.

The High Court said ITV could go ahead with a head-to-head election debate featuring Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. ITV had warned it would cancel the debate if the case had gone against the broadcaster.

During the hearing, Guy Vassall-Adams QC, representing the Lib Dems, said “the voice of Remain [had] been excluded” from the debate, causing “serious consequences for the fairness of the democratic process.”

Philip Coppel QC, representing the SNP, argued it was untrue to say the full range of public opinion was represented by the Conservatives and Labour alone.

But their arguments were thrown out by two leading judges. Announcing the ruling, Lord Justice Davis said: “The clear conclusion of both members of this court is that, viewed overall, these claims are not realistically arguable.

“It follows that the television debate scheduled for tomorrow evening between the leader of the Conservative Party and the leader of the Labour Party may lawfully go ahead.”

Speaking after the ruling, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Scottish voters were being treated like “second-class citizens”.

“This election is a chance for people in Scotland to vote to escape Brexit, to protect the NHS and to choose their own future with independence – yet they will not hear that argument in the debate tomorrow night,” he said.

He added: “What is now clear is that the UK broadcasting system is similarly incapable. Indeed the result of the decision to exclude the SNP is to discriminate against Scottish voters and to effectively treat them as second-class citizens. 

“That is, quite simply, a democratic disgrace, and the fact that election law and broadcasting codes allow such gross unfairness is unacceptable.”

Liberal Democrat President Sal Brinton added: “The Liberal Democrat’s position, and that of our leader is unique.

“Jo Swinson is the only leader of a national party fighting to stop Brexit. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn should not be allowed to side-step debating the issue of Brexit with someone who wants to Remain, and ITV should not give them the opportunity to do so.

“That’s why this is an incredibly disappointing verdict. Not just for Liberal Democrats but also for democracy in this country and for every Remainer who deserves to have a voice in this debate.”

Lib Dem education spokesperson Layla Moran tweeted: “It is outrageous that the Remain voice is missing from the ITV debate.

“It’s simply wrong of broadcasters to present a binary choice and pre-empt the decision of the people in a general election.”

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