Eurovision is too important to let the SNP play politics with it

26 May 2021

6:27 PM

26 May 2021

6:27 PM

The SNP never passes up an opportunity to make the case for separatism. Now, its campaign for independence has moved away from politics and into the world of the Eurovision song contest. The party has responded to the United Kingdom’s dire showing at the competition with a predictable demand: that Scotland should be allowed to compete separately next time around.

Alyn Smith, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, believes we should ‘talk seriously about entering UK nations separately into the contest’. ‘Scotland is rich in talent and culture, and I want the world to see it. By entering independently, we could one day bring Eurovision back to Scotland,’ Smith added.

The European Broadcasting Union, which organises Eurovision, has said before there is nothing to prevent Scotland from applying. But allowing Scotland to compete separately is a move that politicians in Westminster should be quick to resist, especially at a time when the future of the Union hangs in the balance.

Already in international competitions, Britain doesn’t compete as Britain enough. There may be sound historical reasons for our fielding separate teams in most sporting events – with the happy exception of the Olympics – but it deprives us of one of the most common focuses of patriotic pride available to other countries.

This makes those occasions where the United Kingdom does appear as one – such as Eurovision – all the more important. The Olympics is a case in point: the past few contests have seen Team GB put in extraordinary performances. The haul of gold medals is a testament, not just to the athletes themselves, but also to excellent management and the ruthless direction of state funding to where it is most likely to deliver success.

It’s true that Eurovision is an intrinsically silly contest; that’s part of its charm. But it is nonetheless time that the BBC, and the government, started taking the competition seriously. Why not embrace the potential not just of the outcome, but the process of picking a candidate, to bring British people together? Adopting the model of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – a ‘country-wide hunt for talent’ – would give acts from across the country a chance to compete and viewers from all corners of the UK a stake in the selection.

If the BBC can’t – or won’t – organise such a contest, then we should find an organisation that will. It is ridiculous that we continue to allow the Corporation to select our entry when the results are so abysmal. Even if the public perform no better at picking a winner, at least a contest in finding Britain’s entry would allow us to derive some benefit from it which isn’t dependent on the votes of the other countries.

The UK is often described as a union of nations, which of course it is. But it is also a nation of unions. For too long, this idea of British nationhood, the essential cement of the UK, has been neglected. It’s time to do something about this – and put some British vision into Eurovision.<//>

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