The SNP party HQ has partially reversed their decision to bar journalists from attending the leadership hustings over the coming weeks between the three candidates- Ash Regan, Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf.
According to SNP bosses, the media-free hustings was meant to allow members to have the ‘safe space’ to ask each candidate their questions.
However after pressure from BBC, STV, ITN and Sky News have now decided to open up the hustings to The Scottish Parliamentary Journalists Association (SPJA) on a pooled basis- allowing one print journalist and one radio journalist; STV has been allowed one camera into the hustings for recording.
Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives both condemned yesterday’s decision, with the Scottish Conservative leader tweeting: “The public deserves to hear the priorities of candidates standing to be the next First Minister of Scotland.”
In an open letter to the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, Labour MP Ian Murray said: “It is completely unacceptable that such an important contest can be conducted in secrecy, with the people of Scotland given no say whatsoever in choosing the next leader.”
Leadership Hopefuls also spoke out on the decision, with Kate Forbes having called for leadership hustings to be webcast live online, arguing ‘scores of members’ from across Scotland are unable to attend their local husting.
She said: “As you would expect for Scotland’s biggest political party, there is considerable interest from members in listening to the forthcoming hustings.
“As the leader of the SNP will also become First Minister, it is no surprise that the general public as well as the media are keen to follow the debate too.
“I have received messages from party members the length and breadth of Scotland because all of the spaces for the hustings have been snapped up.
“I fully believe in democracy and transparency, and I think it would be a positive thing for the hustings to be livestreamed to a significantly bigger audience – the SNP has a membership of 100,000 and most of the venues will only take a few hundred people.
“I don’t believe any of the candidates have anything to hide, in fact, it would give us a platform to set a positive example for how to have respectful, informed and varied debate.
“I hope that members of the media can be given access too – as well as the national media, I know a number of local media outlets will be very keen to cover town hall meetings that are happening on their doorstep.”
Forbes’ calls for the inclusion of the media were reiterated by fellow campaigner Ash Regan, who said: “The media have a job to do, and as candidates, we have a duty to be held to scrutiny. I firmly believe we should allow access and ask the media carry the proceedings fairly and fully- making them available to all.
“Today I set out my action plan for the SNP, covering four key themes: Transparency, Accountability, Modernity and Accessibility. It’s important we talk about values and elevate the tone of the debate.”
The spokesperson for Humza Yousaf said: “Humza has already agreed to a number of TV debates throughout the course of the campaign where those who are not SNP members can see why Humza is the top candidate to become Scotland’s First Minister and he has no problem with the media seeing any of the hustings. As a democratic party it is a decision for the NEC which represents members.”
When approached for comments a spokesperson for the SNP party said: “We now have a livestream which will run across all SNP digital platforms – Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – from 7pm.
“Print media are aware and can access this. There remains an open invite for one of the SPJA to attend on a pool basis. STV are gathering for pool too and sharing with BBC and other broadcasters. “
The first hustings will take place in Cumbernauld theatre today at 7pm and will now be accessible to the media.