STV has joined the BBC in leaving Alex Salmond off the guest list for its leaders' debate. The head of the newly formed Alba Party is not happy about this. That other “new” kid on the electoral block, George Galloway of All For Unity, is also out in the cold.

In the meantime, broadcaster Andrew Neil has offered to moderate a head-to-head with the pair on Spectator TV. “This is the debate that the public have been longing for,” says Mr Galloway. “Box office, TV gold. The heavyweights of Scottish politics.”

One hesitates to even imagine it. All those Alpha males in the one room. It would surely not be allowed on health and safety grounds alone.

Whether the Alba Party leader takes up the Spectator invitation remains to be seen. But there is one thing you can bet on. With the STV leaders’ debate taking place next Tuesday, and BBC Scotland having another get-together on May 4, Mr Salmond is not going to let this one lie.

Now would seem the right moment to have a debate about who should be allowed to appear in televised debates. So in the best traditions of wrangles down the ages, we shall set out the case for and against. The motion is, “This house believes Alex Salmond should be invited to join the TV debates.”

READ MORE: poll says pro-indy supermajority within reach

(Sorry Mr Galloway, you are excluded from this bash as well. Any grown man who has appeared on television pretending to be a cat is more than capable of fighting for his own space at the brimming saucer of Scottish politics.)

Pleading his own case, Mr Salmond argues that Alba is a national party putting up a serious challenge, it has a “significant” following already, and could gain more support if it was allowed to take part in the TV debates.

His party is indeed fielding four candidates in each regional list. Under BBC guidelines it is entitled “as a minimum” to have the launch of its manifesto featured on the main television and radio programmes.

Further evidence in favour of his participation is a recent Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times. According to this, Alba would take six per cent of the list vote, giving it six seats at Holyrood, one more than the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, both represented in the TV debates, had in the last Scottish Parliament.

As a former First Minister, Mr Salmond is a significant figure in Scottish politics. Viewers would be interested in hearing what he has to say. Given his considerable experience at Holyrood and Westminster his contribution could raise the standard of debates.

He is, as Mr Galloway said, “box office”. Such is the level of interest his presence would increase viewing figures. With his high recognition factor there might even be a case for broadcasting the event UK-wide, thus aiding the rest of the UK’s understanding of Scottish politics.

We should not be too prissy about televised debates. They have hardly been shining examples of civilised discourse in the past. Some of us remember a referendum rammy between Nicola Sturgeon and then Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont that made Ali v Frazier look like Sooty v Sweep.

But what of the case against Mr Salmond’s participation? For a start, there are already five party leaders in the debates. Adding another voice would hardly aid clarity and understanding. If Alba is allowed to take part, others would ask for the same, and where would it end? Glasgow alone has 21 parties competing for votes; in Central Scotland there are 14. To have all them all participating would result in verbal chaos (it would also contravene Covid regulations).

READ MORE: Salmond labelled 'Putin apologist'

For practical reasons, some events have to be limited to the larger parties. Ofcom guidelines make clear that when it comes to deciding who to invite, evidence of previous support in actual elections is paramount. The SNP, Conservatives, Labour, Greens and Lib Dems were the five larger parties at the last election. The Alba Party, being new on the scene, cannot show similar evidence of past support.

Current support, as shown in opinion polls, carries less weight but it can be taken into account if the data is objective, measurable, and consistent. In short, one Sunday Times poll does not a golden ticket grant. Indeed, another poll published yesterday, this one by Ipsos Mori for STV News, found support for Alba running at just three per cent, meaning it would not have any MSPs elected.

As for Mr Salmond being given the chance to have his say, he has ample opportunities outwith the debates. Yesterday, for example, he was interviewed at length on BBC Good Morning Scotland. The day before he appeared on Good Morning Britain.

While he is a significant figure in Scottish politics, and has substantial experience behind him, the notion that he would raise the standard of debate is patronising and wrong. The debates already have two experienced politicians present in Nicola Sturgeon and Willie Rennie, and on the evidence of the BBC debate, the others can give a decent enough account of themselves.

Mr Salmond’s presence may well boost viewer numbers but he is a controversial figure who divides opinion. Just as some viewers may tune in to see him, others could boycott the programme. Likewise, other party leaders could refuse to appear on the same platform as him. It is hard to see Nicola Sturgeon, given her recent comments on his suitability as a candidate, doing so.

READ MORE: Galloway to take legal action against STV

As for making the debates must-see television that viewers across the UK might want to watch, what does that have to do with better informing voters in Scotland?

For every argument in favour of Mr Salmond’s participation there is one against. As the leader of a new party that is yet to have a single vote cast in its favour he has no right to breeze in and demand a spot. The rules are clear and everyone else abides by them. And yet, and yet.

Mr Salmond may turn out to be a copper- bottomed, ocean-going irrelevance in these elections, a footnote at best. Yet he might equally play a pivotal part in shaping Scotland’s future. If nothing else, inviting him to take part in one debate would give voters a glimpse of how the new parliament would look and act. Mr Salmond may not come across as well as he thinks.