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LEADERS SET FOR MAY DAY TELLY SHOWDOWN; Party chiefs will do battle in parly poll countdown.

Byline: Magnus Gardham

SCOTLAND'S political leaders will have two TV showdowns days before the May 5 Holyrood poll.

The BBC will broadcast their main leaders' debate on May Day - Sunday, May 1. STV follow with their headto-head on Tuesday, May 3. Both will feature SNP leader Alex Salmond, Labour's Iain Gray, Tory Annabel Goldie and Lib Dem Tavish Scott.

They could have a huge impact on the election after a recent poll showed Labour and the SNP were neck-and-neck in the race for seats.

The BBC leaders' debate will be hosted by Glenn Campbell at Perth Concert Hall.

But the 1200-strong audience will also get a chance to quiz the leaders in the hour-long, Question Time-style format.

Labour initially objected to the venue, fearing the city was an SNP stronghold.

But their campaign chiefs agreed after assurances about the BBC's strict audience vetting procedures, which will draw Scots from across the country.

The showdown will be recorded in the afternoon and shown at 10.30pm on BBC1.

It will follow three earlier debates on health, education and the economy.

The health debate will pit the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon against Labour's Jackie Baillie, Tory Murdo Fraser and Lib Dem Ross Finnie.

Labour finance spokesman Andy Kerr will take on the SNP's John Swinney in the economy debate, along with Tory Derek Brownlee and Lib Dem Jeremy Purvis.

Greens leader Patrick Harvie - whose party are not big enough to get a place in the main show under election broadcasting rules - will also take part in the economy debate.

STV's Tuesday night debate will be their second of the campaign. The first will be broadcast on March 29, just a few days after the official start of the six-week campaign.

Spectacle The station's political editor Bernard Ponsonby will host both debates from Glasgow.

A channel insider said: "We want to get in early and spark interest in the election."

A Beeb source told the Record: "Our main leaders' debate will be a great big spectacle with a hall packed with folk."

It's not the first time televised leaders' showdowns have been used in Scotland as they featured in 2007.

But there is expected to be greater interest this time after the success of the first-ever UK leaders' telly debates in last May's general election.

The series, on the BBC, ITV and Sky, raised questions about David Cameron's policies, breathed new life into Gordon Brown's campaign and catapulted Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg into the limelight. ED SAVAGES ECK: Page 4


HEAD TO HEAD: Salmond, Gray, Goldie and Scott will face each other in TV debates before election
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 24, 2011
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