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United or Divided – Rethinking UK representation at Eurovision

Article by Joel Grace

As one of the Big 5 countries to automatically qualify for Eurovision finals, the United Kingdom has a vivid history of participation since its first appearance in 1957. 

With five wins under their belt and a record-breaking 16 finishes in second place, the UK definitely has one of the strongest historical scorecards in the competition. 

But in recent times the fortunes of UK entries have taken a plummet, with a number of 21st-century last-place finishes and many entries receiving little love from viewers, most recently in 2024 with Olly Alexander’s Dizzy failing to score any points from the public vote.

We never like seeing artists receive nul points, so maybe a radical approach is needed to turn the UK’s Eurovision fortunes around?

Is now the time for the UK to separate and compete as independent countries instead of one, united, kingdom?

Why are UK entries modern-day cellar-dwellers?

The United Kingdom - composed of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland - has historically participated in Eurovision as a unified entity.

Despite a strong second-place showing with 2022’s fantastic Spaceman by Sam Ryder, since the year 2000 the UK has regularly placed in the bottom half of the scoreboard. 

This has sparked various speculations among fans as to why the UK is underperforming, with critics arguing that poor song quality, stubborn voting blocs and changing dynamics of the Eurovision landscape could all be possible explanations.

But more and more people are suggesting that the UK's failure to embrace its regional diversity and showcase the musical talents of its constituent nations has contributed to its lack of success. 

In a contest renowned for diverse musical styles and quirky cultural influences, dissolving the UK umbrella could add public interest to entries from its unique nations and potentially enhance their chances of climbing the scoreboard.

The case for diversification

The push for diversification is coming most strongly from Scotland and Wales, with groundswell support building in the music industry and fan communities for patriotism.    

Both countries have participated separately from the UK at various Eurovision events including Eurovision Choir (Wales finished second in 2017, Scotland debuted in 2019) and also Welsh participation in Junior Eurovision.

Wales even has its own national song contest already, with Cân i Gymru running since 1969.

It has been a long time between drinks for Scottish fans, we have to look back to 1988 when Celine Dion won for Switzerland before we find the last time the UK was represented by a Scottish artist (with Glaswegian Scott Fitzgerald singing Go to miss out on victory by only one point).

Subsequent years have been peppered with Scottish representation for other countries or as songwriters, yet a main stage feature has been sorely lacking for more than 35 years.

It's been an even longer wait for Northern Ireland, with 1971’s Clodagh Rogers the nation’s last UK representative, coming in fourth place with her song Jack In The Box. Northern Irish artists have performed for Ireland numerous times since the 1970’s, but never again represented the UK.

The recent trend of countries succeeding with songs performed in their native language highlights the perfect opportunity to chase success by adding local flavour to the stage with a bit of Gaelic or Welsh.

The case for unification

Status quo campaigners deny the current united representation system is England-centric, pointing to the inclusion of four Welsh entrants in the past 25 years, including 2002’s Jessica Garlick, 2004’s James Fox, 2013’s Bonnie Tyler and 2017’s Lucie Jones.

This argument may appear reasonable when considering Wales, but when applied to Scotland and Northern Ireland it begins to unravel (given Northern Ireland hasn’t had representation on stage since 1971, and Scotland since 1988).

By participating as a unified entry, the UK sends a message of solidarity to its European neighbours that is fitting with the slogan of the contest, “United By Music”.

The UK’s strong traditional record in Eurovision is lauded as another reason to remain united, with the prospect of building on their historical significance in the future.

There is also the argument that a unified UK offers the strongest entrant possible for the kingdom.

Diluting representation into independent countries could diminish the greater UK’s impact on stage, by possibly sending single-nation entries that may not have gained selection for a combined UK.

Could this really ever happen?

First things first, for a split to occur the BBC would need to renounce its right to represent the UK as a whole. 

But considering the BBC co-hosted one of the best-received Eurovision Song Contest productions in recent memory, there is strong support for the UK to remain a sole entrant, albeit by better-dedicating resources to song selection that is more aligned with recent Eurovision trends.

If however, the BBC were to entertain the idea of a split, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would need to have their independent national broadcasters recognised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). 

Once their national broadcasters are established, they would need to apply for EBU memberships, which includes satisfying membership criteria and financial obligations.

In Scotland the Scottish Media Group (STV) is already a full EBU member, and the Scottish Gaelic BBC Alba has broadcast proceedings when Scotland competed in Eurovision Choir in 2019, their first time competing against the UK in any Eurovision contest (but unfortunately didn’t make it out of the semi-finals). Welsh national broadcaster Sianel Pedwar Cymru and Northern Irish broadcaster UTV are also EBU members.

Next, a participation agreement to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest would be negotiated with the new broadcast members, enabling each nation to submit their entry via national final or internal selection.

So whilst we can see that it’s probably unlikely that the BBC will willingly loosen its grip on representing the whole of the UK, there is certainly a visible path forward with established broadcasters for each UK country to compete in their own right should all parties be in favour.

So, should the UK unite or divide?

It’s clear the BBC needs to examine what has and hasn’t worked in their quest for Eurovision victory. 

They now have the opportunity to do something radical - divide the United Kingdom, to ensure that England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all have equal opportunities to shine on the Eurovision stage. 

It might be just the trick to get them back where we want to see them - on the winning side of the leaderboard!

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2 則留言


Forget it


Rebecca Leonard
Rebecca Leonard

That will never happen.

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