Debate podium or not, voters know the SNP are only ones offering change

People often switch off politics. But when it’s election time they want to hear from party leaders. They want to know what their values are. They want to know who offers change and who offers more of the same.

Broadcasters have a duty to hold leaders to account, and to challenge them. This is a time for scrutiny with leaders in the spotlight.

That’s why the decision to ban Parliament’s third party from the leaders’ tv debate is such a mistake. Two virtually identical leaders – Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer – limpet close on all the big issues, will exchange damp blows.

Both support Brexit. Both oppose free prescriptions. Both oppose free tuition fees for students. Both are happy with huge banker bonuses. Neither want to bring the utilities back into public ownership. Both opposed an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

That’s why we needed the SNP there. We’ve seen how scared both Starmer and Sunak are at Prime Minister’s Questions when Stephen Flynn MP, the SNP leader, rises to his feet. He attacks Tory chaos and Labour timidity.

No wonder Labour and the Tories didn’t want an SNP voice in the tv debates to offer a real challenge to their cosy consensus.

Sunak and Starmer have another thing in common. They’re both unpopular with the public. By contrast, polls show new First Minister John Swinney is the most popular leader in the UK. A moral leader offering a real change of direction, not a shift of deckchairs on the UK Titanic.

We’ve seen how Sir Keir hates being challenged by independent voices in his own party. Now, it seems, he’s bullied broadcasters into excluding a challenge from the SNP in the televised debates. And to their shame the broadcasters have given in.

And if Sir Keir is this bullying and petulant in opposition, just imagine what he’ll be like in government with a huge, arrogant majority.

That’s why Scotland needs a strong, independent voice to stand up for our country at Westminster. That voice should have been heard in the tv debates. Because Scotland needs the SNP and its MPs now more than ever.