They are an important part of the arrangements we have to ensure that people can access as much information as possible in preparing to cast their ballot.

What would be new – and hopefully will happen this time round – are UK-wide broadcast debates for the general election.

And if they are to be at all relevant to all of their audiences, they must reflect the democratic reality of Scotland and political diversity across the UK. And that must include SNP involvement in any such debates broadcast in Scotland.

The fact is that the general election in Scotland will be a two-horse race between the SNP and Labour.

It would be entirely unacceptable, and unfair to the broadcasters’ Scottish audience to exclude the party that forms the government of Scotland and is now leading in Westminster election polls.

The broadcasters must meet their public-service obligations to audiences across the UK, and for them to propose debates which signally fail to do so shows an extraordinarily high-handed attitude and depressingly metropolitan mindset.

They would do well to recall the debacle experienced by the BBC’s Panorama programme in 1995, when they were forced not to broadcast an interview with the prime minister

in Scotland because it breached the rules of impartiality during a Scottish local election.

We shall seek guarantees of inclusion from the broadcasters, given their inescapable duty to ensure fairness and impartiality in election-related coverage in Scotland.

We are prepared to be extremely flexible about options for the format, but the party of government in Scotland must as a matter of principle and good democratic practice be included in any UK-wide debates. And of course exactly the same goes for Plaid Cymru in Wales.

The SNP are seeking to have a substantial influence at Westminster by electing a block of 20 or more MPs, with obvious UK-wide political implications – not least given the perfectly possible outcome of a hung parliament and tight arithmetic.

And on a range of issues which will loom large in the general election campaign, the SNP has a distinctive as well as compelling policy position. For example, while the London-based parties will debate whether there should be three or four Trident nuclear weapon submarines on the River Clyde, the SNP will be arguing for none – a position backed by the Scots parliament, as well as a majority of Scottish Westminster MPs.

In other words, both from the Scottish and UK perspectives, the governing parties of Scotland and indeed Wales cannot have our voices silenced by rigged debates.