THE BBC has refuted accusations of bias over last week's Question Time show in Motherwell after former Coatbridge and Chryston UKIP candidate Billy Mitchell appeared for a fourth time.

The publicly-funded broadcaster refuted suggestions that the show hosted by Fiona Bruce was biased and said they would not normally allow somone to appear again if they had featured "recently".

Meanwhile an online poll of readers, with over 1100 votes cast said they would not watch the show in the wake of the Motherwell debacle.

Billy Mitchell received just 34 votes when he stood in the Coatbridge West by-election for North Lanarkshire Council in 2013.


But he sparked online debate after he launched fiercely criticised SNP’s Fiona Hyslop during last Thursday’s edition of the popular topical debate programme.

The makers of BBC Question Time were under more pressure on Thursday morning after it was claimed that Fiona Hyslop’s full response to a former UKIP candidate was edited out from last week’s Question Time in Motherwell.

Read more: Billy Mitchell will not be returning to BBC Question Time

It has been claimed that Billy Mitchell, a former UKIP candidate, was invited to appear on the show despite strict rules about application. Eagle-eyed viewers noted he had previously appeared on the show previously and had asked questions.

It has since been revealed that he has appeared in the show’s audience four times, with his last audience appearance giving him more than a minute of uninterrupted airtime to direct a rant at an SNP minister.


The BBC has now responded to a number of complaints about the selection of the audience for the Motherwell show and said: "We reject accusations that last week’s audience (February 7) was not representative of a range of views.

The broacaster said it receives tens of thousands of audience applications every year of which 5000 attend their recordings.

"Audience selection is a significant undertaking and the process of selection is afforded the highest priority by the Question Time team. Our system for selection includes asking a detailed series of questions, sometimes by phone.

"Every potential audience member is spoken to individually. Data supplied by potential audience members is also routinely cross referenced and verified. We regularly seek guidance on best practice in this area."

Read more: Failed UKIP candidate claims he was personally invited on to BBC Question Time

The application form to appear requires potential guests to voluntarily admit if they have previously been on the show and, if so, when.

They must also reveal who they would vote for in an election, how they voted in the EU referendum and whether they are a member of a political party.

The BBC said:"Given the strict rules on data protection we are not routinely able to talk about individual cases. Although there are no hard and fast rules about how many times someone can appear in a Question Time audience, we want to allow as many people as possible the chance to be part of the programme so we would not normally allocate a seat to someone if they had appeared recently.

"We continually review our systems and processes in this area."

After Mr Mitchell accused the SNP of being “hypocritical” in criticising the Conservative Party’s handling of Brexit, social media users expressed their surprise that he’d been allowed on the show again.

Fiona Hyslop responded to his tirade giving a seven-second answer before the show moved along to another topic.

However, according to reports in our sister paper The National, the full response was in fact significantly longer but was chopped out in the final edit by the show’s producers.


In the broadcast programme, Mitchell ends his speech with: “You’re losers. You need to get voted out and leave Scotland to prosper.”

Hyslop then replies: “I appreciate your point. A slight exaggeration. We had a white paper, whether you liked it or not, there were 600 pages of it–”

The camera then cuts back to the audience, and host Fiona Bruce introduces a new questioner and the debate moves on.

It has now been reported that Fiona Hyslop MP had continued to reply at length, but as she was giving her answer Mitchell started to shout over her.

Host Fiona Bruce was happy to allow him to interject, but a QT audience member told the National that at one point during the exchanges he started shouting about recent allegations surrounding former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Court restrictions around the live case ensured that the BBC would be unable to broadcast the footage, and therefore most of Hyslop’s response to him.

It's not the first time there has been controversy over the way the show has been handled since Fiona Bruce took the helm in January.


Labour lodged a formal complaint about the flagship show's "unacceptable" treatment of Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott at the end of last month which she described as a "horrible experience"

She said she was interrupted twice as many times as justice minister Rory Stewart, the only Conservative MP on the panel, and the audience was “whipped up against her”.

Labour also objected to a clash over polling during the programme, when Ms Bruce interrupted the shadow cabinet member when she correctly claimed that recent opinion polls suggested Labour was on a level pegging with the Tories.

Ms Bruce insisted the party was “definitely” behind but later issued an on-air clarification over her comments.

She told viewers: “I just want to pick up on something from last week’s programme. There was some discussion about opinion polls, you may aware of this.

“I was talking about a poll that came out the day of the programme that suggested the Conservatives were ahead.

“The shadow home secretary mentioned some other earlier polls which showed Labour in the lead, and we should have made that context clear, and I’m really happy to do that now.”