Europe

Fury as Nicola Sturgeon handed prime TV slot by BBC – but SNP’s rivals snubbed

Starmer says UK at ‘critical moment’ in fight against Omicron

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In a speech entitled “A response from the First Minister”, the SNP leader addressed Scots on BBC One Scotland at 7pm last night. It followed a speech by Boris Johnson to the whole of the UK on Sunday.

A day after the Prime Minister urged UK adults to get the booster vaccine in response to concerns about the Omicron variant, Labour leader Keir Starmer was given the opportunity to respond.

However, opposition parties in Scotland have not been afforded the same reply by the BBC.

Sharon Dowey, Scottish Conservative culture spokesperson, told the Scottish Daily Mail: “Since the UK opposition get to respond to the Prime Minister, we thought it only fair that the Scottish opposition get to respond to the First Minister.

“Unfortunately, BBC Scotland believe that there should be no response to the First Minister in Scotland.

“The BBC seem to be treating Scotland as less important.”

A Scottish Labour source criticised the BBC’s decision to the paper, saying that the corporation had given Ms Sturgeon “unchallenged prime-time coverage”.

A BBC spokesperson told the Scottish Mail: “When the Prime Minister makes a statement across the UK such as the one on Sunday, the BBC has to consider whether it is appropriate to offer similar opportunities to other parties.

“Our approach ensures each of the largest parties is heard appropriately in each nation.”

In her speech, Ms Sturgeon echoed the Prime Minister’s target to offer every adult a booster vaccine before the New Year.

A third dose was the Scottish Government’s “top priority”, she said.

The First Minister added: “This winter, just as we thought we had turned a corner in this pandemic, the emergence of Omicron has struck a cruel blow.

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“Omicron is more transmissible than past strains and it is now spreading very quickly. We anticipate a steep and rapid rise in cases.”

Even if the Omicron variant transpires to be less lethal, “the challenge Omicron poses is real.

“When we are facing, as we may be, thousands upon thousands of cases per day – perhaps as high as 15,000 or more – even if just one in every hundred of those cases needs hospital care, the burden on the health service quickly becomes impossible.

“Omicron can do this through sheer weight of numbers.”

In his own speech on Monday evening, Sir Keir backed the Government’s booster plan, urging viewers to get the vaccine.

He stated: “Our scientists are clear: the best defence is the booster jab.”

Sir Keir said that “we may not be certain how dangerous [Omicron] is, but we do know that lives are at risk, and again our NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed.

“If that happens, more people will die.”

Following backlash at the broadcast, a BBC spokesperson said: “Since the Suez crisis in the 1950s, Ministerial Statements by different governments have always been followed by a response from the Leader of the Opposition at Westminster, with the single exception of Mr Johnson’s original lockdown announcement in March 2020.”

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