I'm extremely heartened to read in Scotland on Sunday that the SNP are failing to obediently genuflect towards the narrative that "everything has been settled" on the televised leaders' debates (how can 'everything' have been agreed by 'everyone' when the majority of parties with parliamentary representation weren't even involved in the discussions?). To start with there'll be an appeal to the BBC Trust, and the article strongly hints that if all else fails, legal action still remains very much a live option -
"The letter, which will arrive on the trust's desk tomorrow, represents the SNP's last attempt to get the BBC to change its mind on the issue before the party resorts to legal action."
Some people (mostly, it has to be said, those who can't seem to understand what the issue is here) have suggested that the SNP would be making a tactical blunder if they took the matter to the courts - better, they contend, not to 'make too much of a fuss'. However, the stakes are simply too high to treat this as a game of cricket - crucial precedents are about to be set for future Westminster elections. My own view is that legal action only becomes unnecessary if one of the following occurs -
a) The broadcasters agree to the additional fourth debate suggested by the SNP and Plaid.
b) The broadcasters make space for special programmes to compensate the SNP for the bonus coverage their three rivals will be receiving. For the avoidance of doubt, these must be programmes featuring the SNP only - the Scotland-specific debates that would have happened anyway are utterly irrelevant to this question.
c) The SNP and Plaid are given some kind of direct access to the main debates, even if it is not on an absolute par with the other parties.
Of course, none of these options would represent anything like fairness and balance, but they would - in an imperfect world - perhaps be just about enough to be worth settling for. However, if none of them are agreed to, there would be little doubt left that the requirement for balanced coverage of the election campaign has been flagrantly contravened, and in those circumstances the SNP would be crazy not to test the matter in court.
In other news in the same paper, it seems there's some truly bizarre political cross-dressing going on. There was a time when the easiest jibe in the world to make against the SNP was that they wanted to "erect border posts at Gretna Green". The SNP's pro-Europeanism has of course long since consigned that prospect to history, but now, jaw-droppingly, it's Labour who seem utterly hellbent on imposing unnecessary passport controls at the border. It's really not a great side of the argument to be on. I hope for Labour's sake this is just yet another case of Chris Bryant unilaterally shooting his mouth off - but I just wonder.