HAVING watched Question Time for many years, I must agree with Mark Smith when he states that the programme has lost its way (“Question Time row reflects the sad state of public debate”, The Herald, February 11). It is no longer about informing the viewers about political issues and has become little more than a "reality" TV show. The invited politicians consistently refuse to answer the audience's questions, resorting to Plan A, repeat the party line ad nauseam, or Plan B, condemn the other parties for failure to address the problems concerning the public.

The "non-political" panellists are frequently even more extreme in their views, particularly over Brexit, and far more aggressive in putting forward their view. That someone should be a member of the audience on different occasions should surprise no one, as the main concern of the producers is viewing figures, and these are boosted by having controversy, not by providing information.

On the issue of bias, it is, sadly, there and seems part of the ethos of the programme. On Question Time a few days before the EU referendum, both David Dimbleby and Chris Grayling were out of their chairs to correct a lady who referred to "English values", pointing out that the said values were in reality "British". This political correctness did not long survive the vote, and not one on the panel a few weeks later corrected an audience member who referred to "English industry and trade".

Having watched the decline in standards over the past 18 months, I have decided not to waste my time watching Question Time. If I want to hear a reasoned and intelligent political discussion, I will ask a group of teenagers their opinion.

T J Dowds,

6q Fleming Road, Cumbernauld.

I NOTE with interest Mark Smith's article). I have thought for some time that Question Time has lost its way and that we no longer are presented with considered debate from reasonably informed members of the public. It seems to be a perpetual shouting joust from hand-picked members of the public. Last week's episode was the prime example, no proper debate. I find now, and have done for some time, that I can only tolerate about half the programme before retiring with a good work of fiction.

On Thursday evening the five members of the audience who were invited to participate, before I switched off and went to bed, were all vehemently opposed to the SNP, including as Mr Smith pointed, out one who was a Ukip member of the Orange Lodge, entitled to his opinion, however unchallenged in the "debate".

In his last few years I felt David Dimbleby had lost control and Fiona Bruce, his replacement, whom I admire as a newsreader and presenter, lacks the incisive qualities of, for example, Emily Maitlis, who has proved on Newsnight she has the ability.

The same panel participants also seem to appear every few weeks as if the BBC has a limited pool of participants. Time for the BBC to review where this once-great programme is heading, or has the Brexit issue finally brought it to the point of no recovery?

Wallace Milligan,

8 Juniper Green, Masonhill, Ayr.

MARK Smith’s assessment of the BBC’s Question Time in Motherwell was charitable indeed. He gives the BBC the benefit of the doubt after allowing a known Ukip activist his fourth opportunity to shout at the SNP on the programme. This love-in between the BBC and Ukip has been longstanding, given the number of appearances Nigel Farage has had on the programme in recent years.

The continued and sustained lack of SNP politicians appearing despite being the third largest party at Westminster compares badly with the treatment of the Liberal Democrats when they were in an identical parliamentary position. The truth is that the BBC has failed in its service to Scotland. The £300 million Scotland’s licence fee payers send south should instead be used to fund a new BBC Scotland, with complete editorial independence from the BBC in London. Before anyone complains that this would provide a poor service given a budget of this size, please be aware that Ireland’s BBC, which is known as RTE, spent €327m Ein 2016.The New BBC Scotland would have at least the same spending power as RTE.

Francis Buchan,

5 Drybrough Crescent, Edinburgh.

LAST Thursday on BBC Question Time from Motherwell, a serial audience member, former Ukip candidate Billy Mitchell, popped up in his favourite orange jerkin for his fourth appearance in so many years. This is a breach of the QT rules. A stooshie ensued on social media. Was he a far right plant by a Unionist-leaning editorial team, or had he sneaked in because of a flawed vetting procedure? I made it clear I thought cock-up, not conspiracy was the answer.

That didn’t stop Mark Smith weighing in yesterday, writing a piece in which he described my position – that is, rejecting a conspiracy – as “crappy, conspiratorial Da Vinci Code thinking”. I know, surreal.

Mr Smith also had an eccentric take on Mr Mitchell’s choice of orange jacket; it was no more significant than SNP panellist Fiona Hyslop’s blue jacket. However a wee bit of googling would have alerted him to the fact that Mr Mitchell is a supporter of Ulster Young Militants, and calls himself "orange jacket man" on Facebook. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that his choice of jacket was a self-conscious sartorial nod.

Why does it all matter? Well because Question Time producers say they have clear rules; be up front about who you are when you apply to be on the programme, no repeat audience appearances, and politicians aren’t allowed to take cover in the audience – their place is on the panel where they can be identified and their views subjected to scrutiny. That’s something surely we can all agree on?

John Nicolson,

Presenter, TalkRadio,

18 Hatfields, London

AS they always do when they're found out, Nationalists are claiming the Question Time audience was rigged and looking for dirt on Billy Mitchell. No wonder. The "Scotland is fed up to the back teeth of the SNP" genie was brutally hurled out of the bottle in front of millions of UK TV and social media viewers, never to return.

Mitchell's final flourish: "Ye need tae get voted oot and leave Scotland tae prosper," was a clear challenge to opposition parties to up their game and finish the job in 2021.

Allan Sutherland,

1 Willow Row, Stonehaven.

Read more: Mark Smith on the Question Time row