WHEN is the best time for a heated debate? Judging by the rows over the BBC's Question Time, Thursday nights are increasingly not all right for verbal fighting.

The show made the news again last week when it visited Weymouth. The topic was immigration and the Government’s plans for a points-based system. One woman in the audience claimed public services were being overwhelmed by the number of people “flooding in” and the UK should “completely close the borders”.

The BBC’s decision to tweet the 82-second clip unchallenged has been widely criticised. Owen Jones, columnist for The Guardian, called it "a vile, unhinged rant, packed full of lies and hate, and the BBC decide to uncritically clip it so it can be easily shared across social media".

In response, the BBC said it posted five excerpts, including one of a panellist responding directly to the questioner.

Between this row and other incidents, including failing to identify an audience member as a former Conservative MSP, Question Time illustrates what can go wrong with “as live” debates (the programme is recorded on the evening of transmission).

There was a chance to see a different take on the debate show when BBC1’s The Big Questions replaced Sunday Politics Scotland.

Filmed at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, The Big Questions had a small audience, which gave it the atmosphere of a tutorial rather than the bear pit that QT can become when tempers fray.

There were two topics – “Is racism a legacy of empire?” and “Has wokeness become a new religion?” – that touched on topical stories. The presenter, Nicky Campbell, was in charge of the room without seeming domineering.

Perhaps because it is Sunday morning, commissioning editors think programmes, if they are not strictly political, must have a quasi-religious air. The Big Questions falls into that category and can seem hard going as a result. Some of the audience looked as though they could have done with another hour in bed. On the whole, however, it was an engaging show. QT producers should have a look. Since both shows are made by Mentorn a visit won’t be difficult to arrange. 

In a week when flooding has dominated the news it was the turn of George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, to tour the studios.

The flooding made the newspaper review on The Andrew Marr Show. Marr said he had taken the train to Glasgow the day before (to interview Nicola Sturgeon, of which more later) and had been shocked to see the amount of standing water covering fields. Not to be outdone, Sarah Vine, Daily Mail columnist and wife of former Environment Secretary Michael Gove, said she had taken her dogs “out of London” for a day and seen likewise. To think some folk regard Londoners as out of touch.

So to the sit down between Scotland’s First Minister and Marr. Filmed at BBC Scotland headquarters at Pacific Quay in Glasgow, the Clyde outside the full length windows was as choppy as relations between Bute House and Downing Street. A to and fro about what she would do if the PM continued to refuse the power to hold another independence referendum led nowhere new. It was where the interview went after this that will have caught the attention of news editors.

“Is Nicola Sturgeon going to remain as leader of the SNP and First Minister for a few years yet?” asked Marr.

"Yes, I hope so,” replied the FM. "All leaders should reflect on an ongoing basis on these issues. For me, two conditions are needed for me to stay as leader – and I do intend to lead my party into the next Scottish Parliament election.

"You have to have the support, not just of party but of country. I would say, humbly, that I've just led my party to another landslide election victory, winning 80% of the seats.

"But secondly, I have to be sure that I want to do this job, think I'm the best person to do this job, have the drive and energy and that is emphatically the case.

"When either of these things cease to be the case then that'll be the time for me to move on, and do these other things that I'm keen to do in my lifetime, but that is not now and it is not imminent.”

READ MORE: Sturgeon confirms plans to stay on

Changing jobs came up in Marr’s interview with David Davis, former Brexit Secretary.

Mr Davis said allowing the Chinese firm Huawei to build parts of the UK’s 5G network was “the worst intelligence decision since MI6’s recruitment of Kim Philby”.

Marr turned to the subject of Dominic Cummings, the PM’s controversial chief aide, who once described Mr Davis as “thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus”.

Mr Davis’s response?

“Frankly, he is a special adviser,” twinkled the MP. “Here today, gone tomorrow.” Ouch.