Let me start by making my annual public service announcement. This is the TWENTY-SEVENTH consecutive year in which there is no Scottish involvement in the UK Eurovision entry. Both France and Cyprus have been represented by Scots more recently than the UK has. The 'Union Dividend' in action, folks.
If you go back far enough, Scotland does have a bit of a Eurovision pedigree. The 1972 contest was hosted at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. Lulu won in 1969 as a singer, and Bill Martin won in 1967 as a songwriter (with Puppet on a String). But in recent decades we might as well not have existed. It's hard to see that changing until independence - the UK entry has become the de facto England and Wales entry.
So is it any wonder that I identify more with the Irish entry these days? Until a few years ago, we were at least given some kind of 'ownership' over the UK entry by having the chance to vote in the national selection, but even that has been taken away. Nowadays, the Irish selection is the only one that UK residents can vote in (courtesy of a technological loophole). Although the political situation has meant that I haven't been following the national final season as closely as usual, I made sure I cleared the decks one Friday night in late February, and watched the epic Irish selection in its entirety. I really enjoyed it - happy memories flooded back of the good old days of watching A Song for Europe. It had a bit of everything - three very closely-matched songs, tactless comments to the competing Swedish band ("Who's the President of Ireland? Wrong guess, it's Michael D Higgins, lovely man. You've got to learn these things."), and an outcome that remained an enigma until the very last votes had come in. I didn't vote for the winner, but in retrospect I wish I had done - Playing with Numbers has grown on me with every listen, as you may have noticed from a blogpost title the other day. It's now just about my favourite song in the whole contest. By contrast, I liked the UK entry the first time I heard it, but it's progressively got more and more on my nerves as time has gone on.
I don't think 2015 is a vintage year by any means, but it does have the immense saving grace of a song penned by Željko Joksimović, who has surely now supplanted Johnny Logan as the true "Mr Eurovision". And although I didn't really approve of the gimmick of giving Australia a one-off berth in the contest, it's actually worked out quite well, because they have one of the best songs (arguably a potential winner).
Anyway, to business. Having hurriedly caught up with the rehearsals on YouTube, here are the ten countries that I think will qualify from the first semi-final -
I doubt if there's an outright winner in there, but Estonia is probably the pick of the bunch. The studio version of the Moldovan song is a thing of brilliance, but unfortunately the singer's live performance seems a bit ropey.