Frequently asked questions
How can I apply to be in the audience?
Everyone who appears on the programme has to apply via a form on the BBC website. You will be asked to answer a series of questions so the team can understand your political background and how that might inform your contribution during the programme.
The production team contact audience applicants to have a short chat about their background; you may then be accepted as an audience member.
If people have specific accessibility needs and cannot use our online form, we may speak to them directly to gather their details — but their application will be considered in exactly the same way.
How do you advertise?
The production team will often make organisations aware that the application process is open for people in their area; these may be political groups, charities or community groups. We may also advertise in local media, social media, or by asking people to put up posters.
If we approach any political organisations, we ensure we speak to a wide range of different parties and groups across the political spectrum.
These applications would come through the BBC online form and be considered in the same way as any other.
How do you pick the audience?
The audience for the programme is designed to reflect the broad range of political opinions on many issues across Scotland. That could be party membership, voting history, point of view on big issues like EU membership and independence, as well as gender, economic and ethnic background.
Some people in Scotland only ever vote for one party, but many people will use their constituency and list votes at Holyrood to vote for different parties, and may vote for a third in Westminster elections.
Representing the wide range of opinions in the country is therefore a complex process.
The team will speak directly to hundreds of people each week who have applied to be part of Debate Night. Some may be active in one political group or other – but many, like a lot of Scots, have a complex voting history across the party spectrum.
We do not pick the audience based on the number of applications from any particular group.
If the programme comes from my local area, will the audience reflect that area?
We will always look to have the audience represent a broad range of opinion from across Scotland, rather than how a particular city or area voted. This is in the interest of having a good debate.
Can people be on the programme more than once?
Yes, but we do want to give as many members of the public as possible an opportunity to take part, so audience members would not normally be successful in applying for another programme if they have already been on one in the past 12 months.
I noticed a well-known local party political campaigner in the audience, is that allowed?
We want to include people in the audience who are politically engaged and passionate, so we don’t exclude applications from people who are active in their local community – typically this tends to be activists in a party, campaigning organisation or trade union, including those who have stood in an election in the past. We want to make sure, however, that audiences are not unduly weighted with people who are party members or activists. Of course everyone has a right for their voice to be heard and we want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible.
The audience didn’t sound representative when I watched the programme. Why?
We work hard to make sure that we deliver an audience that have a broad range of views each week on a range of topics. You can’t know in advance how a particular section of people will be on the night, how willing they are to put their hands up, or how passionately they get involved in the debate. The team will always try and ensure we get a range of opinions from our audience during any programme. If you feel your views aren’t coming through as strongly as others in the programme we would encourage you to apply, come along and put your hand up. Please get involved.
How do you pick the questions?
Our questions are led by the audience. They are asked to send two questions in by email before the night of the programme, and we then give them another opportunity to come up with questions on the night itself. That means we can reflect any breaking or developing stories on the day.
Ultimately the production team will pick which questions are asked based on a wide range of factors; these include the volume of questions on a particular topic, the level of public debate on a subject in the previous week, whether a subject has or hasn’t been discussed on the programme in previous weeks, and whether there is a particular local desire in the area the programme is being broadcast from to discuss a particular issue.
We may pick a question from a particular slant – but we always want the debate around that to represent a wide range of views both from the panel and from the wider audience.
All the questions in the programme will come from members of the public – they are not fed them by the production team or the BBC.
Why would someone not get on a programme?
We get hundreds of applications to be on the programme, so if you haven’t been invited it’s almost certainly because we just can’t fit you in this time. If you apply reasonably close to a programme being recorded, we may also feel we have a sufficient number in our audience who represent your particular background and political leanings.
We’d encourage you to keep applying for future shows.