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Fox to boycott BBC hustings


INDEPENDENT candidate Billy Fox is to boycott next week’s BBC hustings at the Shetland Museum and Archives will hold his own public meeting at the same venue on the same night.

Earlier this week, Mr Fox had branded BBC policy as discriminatory and undemocratic after being told that as an independent candidate he was not invited to sit on the main panel during the event.

Instead he was offered a seat in the audience, as a member of the public, and to participate in the debate from there.

The BBC Radio Shetland hustings will be recorded on 22 April, starting at 7pm, and broadcast locally the following Monday at 6.10pm.

On Wednesday, Mr Fox said that he had booked the museum’s auditorium for immediately after the BBC event to hold his own election meeting.

He said: “In my opinion national BBC policy on hustings events contradicts the Representation of the People Act that requires the BBC to give equal airtime to all candidates, regardless of their standing.  I believe it is undemocratic and discriminatory.

“I have raised my concerns with the BBC in Glasgow but to no avail; the policy stands.

“On these headings I will not be attending the event as I feel I will be unfairly disadvantaged.

“Instead I will be holding a public meeting of my own in the museum auditorium immediately following the hustings event at 8.45 pm, where I will give a short presentation and take questions.”

Earlier this week, the BBC had said they had to take into account a number of factors including, “previous electoral support at similar elections, when deciding on our panels for any election debates we broadcast”.

On Wednesday, the spokesman added: “We’re disappointed to hear Billy Fox has decided not to attend the BBC Radio Shetland Hustings debate next Friday night. We hope he’ll reconsider his decision and play a part in the debate.”

Meanwhile Conservative candidate Sandy Cross has called for Mr Fox to be allowed to participate fully in the BBC hustings.

He said: “The Conservative party supports debate and free expression.  I think it is wrong that Billy Fox has been excluded from the forthcoming radio hustings and I would urge that this be reviewed.

“Whilst I do not share Billy Fox’s views, in my opinion the debate will be the poorer without his full involvement. I urge the BBC to re-consider and allow him to participate on an equal footing with the four other candidates invited.”

Mr Fox has become a household name in the isles as the former chairman of anti-Viking wind farm campaign group Sustainable Shetland, apologised to anyone who might be disappointed by his decision.

He added that this was why he was offering the opportunity to question him after the BBC event.

He continued saying: “There will be a hustings event hosted by the Althing on 16 April in the Tingwall school, and on the afternoon of 22 April a school hustings event at Brae High; the platform at these is on an equal basis.  I will be attending both of these events.”

In Orkney meanwhile, independent candidate and Orkney Islands Council vice convener James Stockan said he would continue lobbying the BBC to seek permission to participate fully in the BBC Radio Orkney hustings.