"PATRICK Harvie vs The United Forces of Conservatism [popcorn bucket emoji]”, tweeted Mark Ruskell MSP in advance of last Thursday’s episode of BBC Question Time.

Much comment was made on social media by Ruskell and others as to the pretty appalling line-up for the episode, with many deriding the topical debate programme’s choice of panel for a visit to Glasgow: Harvie of the Scottish Greens was joined by Labour’s Ian Murray, the SNP’s Kate Forbes, Tory Scottish Office minister Malcolm Offord (who is in the Lords and thus unelected), and the editor of The Spectator magazine, Fraser Nelson.

BBC presenter Fiona Bruce (below) introduced the episode’s audience as “[reflecting] the electoral picture across the nation here in Scotland” but the same could certainly not be said about the panel.

The National: For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of Fiona Bruce during the BBC Question Time Leaders' Special at the Octagon in Sheffield, South Yorkshire..

Overwhelmingly socially and fiscally conservative, the lone force of Patrick Harvie was left to represent Scotland’s left-wing against two Tories and two of the most right-wing SNP and Labour politicians in Scotland.

As a Green myself I’m obviously biased, but I think Harvie did a very good job on the show. It was notable throughout the episode that his comments often received some of the biggest applause, with multiple audience members noting their agreement with him in their own contributions.

His appearance made an impact to those watching at home too, with a Scottish Greens activist canvassing in Glasgow this weekend noting that a voter had been so impressed by Harvie’s performance – particularly his position on Gaza – that they had decided to vote Green instead of Labour at the next opportunity. While this is just one anecdotal comment heard by a party activist, it does illustrate that these programmes can have significant influence on what the public thinks about the issues of today, and who they may then choose to vote for.

The media doesn’t just exist in a bubble of simply reporting the facts, it will always have an impact on those who watch it. With great power comes great responsibility, and I’d argue there are few powers greater than the choice these types of panel shows have as to who they platform.

While the disproportionately right-wing panel of last Thursday’s episode (as well as the vast majority of episodes full stop) is a scandal in and of itself, I find it even more shocking that this was the first appearance of the Scottish Greens on Question Time in almost three years.

Lorna Slater last appeared on a special election edition of the show in April 2021 in the run-up to the Scottish Parliament elections. Since then, Greens have significantly increased the number of councillors and MSPs elected across the country, have entered the Scottish Government with Harvie and Slater becoming junior ministers, and have been consistently polling above 10% for the regional list at Holyrood.

In that same time, more than 100 episodes of Question Time have aired, with eight of those filmed in Scottish locations with five predominantly Scottish panellists per episode. With the Scottish Greens polling at 10%, you’d expect around four Scottish Green politicians or sympathetic voices to have been platformed in that time, but instead we’ve seen just a quarter of that.

Instead, four of the eight episodes from Scotland have featured a panellist from conservative right-leaning magazine The Spectator, and all others featured at least one other right-wing or right-leaning commentator – all of them alongside a Conservative MP or MSP on the panel.

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It’s an outrage that Conservative voices are consistently given at least 40% of the platform on Question Time even in Scottish episodes of the show where the Tories are consistently polling at less than half of that, while the Scottish Greens as a party of government are considered lucky to receive a single appearance in almost three years.

While last Thursday’s episode did provide us with a rare glimmer of representation in the form of Harvie, it was also clear from watching the episode the lack of knowledge of Scottish or Green politics among the makers of the show, with the on-screen descriptor referring to Harvie on more than one occasion as being from “The Green Party”, a descriptor I’ve never seen used by the Scottish Greens.

“Scottish Greens”, “the Greens” and “the Scottish Green Party” are all used interchangeably by the Scottish Greens, but never “The Green Party”, which is far more commonly used by the entirely separate Green Party of England and Wales.

It may well sound pedantic, but it’s an important distinction: the parties hold different positions on issues, and deserve to have their distinct identities respected.

Still, it’s hard to blame those working on the show for their ignorance of Green politics across the UK since the Green Party of England and Wales is also chronically underrepresented.

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The Greens south of the Border have had Caroline Lucas (above) as their sole MP for nearly 14 years, and currently have more than 740 local councillors across England and Wales. In the last three years, they’ve had just four appearances on Question Time, including three by Lucas and one by co-leader Carla Denyer.

When the show was filmed in Bristol last year, the Greens were snubbed and not offered a place on the panel despite being the largest party on Bristol City Council. Neither current deputy leader Zack Polanski nor his predecessor Amelia Womack have ever been offered a place on the show.

All this despite the fact that Ukip, which had 495 councillors at its peak alongside one MP for less than three years and two MPs for six months, appeared in almost a quarter of all episodes between 2010-18.

The party had more than ten appearances from its deputy leaders, and Nigel Farage holds the record for the highest average number of appearances on the show per year, with more than 30 between 2007 and 2019.

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The lack of parity between smaller parties on the left and the right of the political spectrum is utterly brazen, and although Question Time is produced by Mentorn Media as opposed to in-house at the BBC, its role as a key pillar of the BBC’s political content does little to disparage accusations of bias at the broadcaster.

The duty the mainstream media has in responsibly influencing the political narratives of the country has never been more important, especially in the current age of culture wars and misinformation.

While sham “news” channels such as GB News are quite comfortable hosting discussions between two Tory MPs presented by a third, we should be holding the BBC to a far higher standard of balance. Part of that means seeing more Greens on the screens, and less of The United Forces of Conservatism.