JOHN Swinney has lashed out at ITV after the broadcaster excluded the SNP from a TV debate.

Speaking at the opening of the new Levenmouth railway on Wednesday, the First Minister said his party was making “strenuous representations” to broadcasters for inclusion in TV debates in the run-up to the election.

It comes after ITV earlier in the day confirmed the first leadership debate of the election campaign, due to air on June 4.

The programme will see Labour leader Keir Starmer go head to head with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

READ MORE: First TV debate of election announced – with major snub for SNP

But it will only feature the Tory leader and the opposition leader, with smaller parties excluded.

Speaking in Fife, Swinney said: “I think it’s ridiculous that the third party in UK politics is being excluded from the debates that are being taken forward.

“Now we’re making strenuous representations to the broadcasters about that point and we’ll continue to do so because this is a democratic process and the third largest party should be integral to these discussions.”

Some fear excluding the smaller parties from the debates could work to Labour’s advantage, reducing the risk of being attacked from the left by the SNP on issues such as benefits.

It also means the party is less likely to be challenged on its stance on Gaza, which has proved deeply problematic terrain for Starmer.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said it was an "insult" that the SNP had not been invited on to the first televised debate of the election.

Flynn said it was "an insult that we are forced to watch on as others discuss Scotland’s resources and Scotland’s future."

Michael Jermey, ITV’s director of news and current affairs, said: “Millions of viewers value the election debates.

“They provide a chance to see and hear the party leaders set out their pitch to the country, debate directly with each other and take questions from voters.

“ITV is pleased to be broadcasting the first debate in this year’s election campaign.”