Regardless of the outcome of the SNP's legal challenge, I now in a strange way (and I suspect I'm not alone among SNP supporters) feel a sense of peace at last about the whole TV debates issue. Assuming lack of funding doesn't derail the party's day in court - and presumably they wouldn't have risked such a public announcement had they thought that was likely - we can now rest assured that every conceivable avenue for securing fair representation in the TV coverage of this campaign has been thoroughly explored (barring hostage-taking). By making clear they were prepared to be very flexible about the format of the debates, the SNP gave the broadcasters every chance to do the right thing voluntarily. Then they gave the broadcasters' internal appeals procedures every chance to do their job properly. Now the focus shifts to the courts, which depressingly was probably always the SNP's only realistic hope of securing the mere basic fairness they have been seeking from the outset. If even that doesn't produce results, the outrageous injustice will of course remain, but we can at least rest assured that it is not the SNP that have failed or made the wrong decisions here. Others will have to answer for the abandonment of the basic principles of a 'free and fair election' in an allegedly advanced western democracy. But on the other hand, if by any chance the SNP win even a partial victory in the Court of Session, the rewards will be considerable, not just in this election, but in many elections to come.
DougtheDug raised the question on a previous thread of whether the best time to take legal action would not have been before the outset of the campaign, when a very clear contrast could have been drawn between what was being proposed this time, and the much fairer way the SNP were treated in 2001 and 2005. My instinct was to agree. But, on reflection, the beauty of doing it now is that Alex Salmond's suggestion that "the debates haven't dominated the campaign, they've been the campaign" is no longer a point of mere speculation. Now that we've seen the effect of two debates happening for real, everyone knows that proposition is correct - including, presumably, any judge who will hear the court case. The contrary argument that the 'balancing coverage' from the Scottish side-debates would prove just as important in helping to inform voters' choices is simply no longer credible given what has unfolded over the last ten days.
And win or lose in the courts, the SNP have already secured a small psychological victory today - they've confounded those insufferable wind-up merchants on the Scotsman boards who have gloatingly claimed for months that the reason the SNP hadn't announced legal action was that they already knew they would lose.