Scot Goes Pop more or less started life as a Eurovision blog, so I try to keep that tradition going to a small extent every year with a little bit of Eurovision coverage. Last year that came in the form of a podcast, and I was planning to do the same thing this year, but alas, the clock has beaten me. There was an Alba NEC meeting this morning (which was a very upbeat affair, by the way), so I didn't dare burn the midnight oil too much with all the finickity edits that would have been required to get a podcast ready in time. But instead, here's a blogpost with a few thoughts about what to expect from the grand final tonight.
In the podcast last year, I was looking ahead to a truly fascinating showdown between two entries - France and Italy - which were practically level in the betting, but which couldn't conceivably have been more different from each other. That made the outcome very unpredictable, because it was hard to judge which way the juries would jump, or which way the public would jump, or indeed what the synthesis of those two results would look like. This year it's a very different story, because we have an overwhelming odds-on favourite - on the betting markets Ukraine are estimated as a roughly 70% chance to win outright, which is pretty incredible in a field of 25 songs. But there's still a really interesting story beneath the surface, because it's by no means clear that Ukraine is actually the best song. I'd probably have it in my own top six or seven, but I'm not convinced that it's objectively better than the UK, or Italy, or the Netherlands, or even Estonia, which is absolutely nowhere in the betting but leaped out at me in the semi-final as a possible dark horse.
The reason Ukraine are strong favourites is, of course, that they have a decent song at a time of massive public sympathy across Europe for the country's plight. So it's assumed they'll win the public vote comfortably, and I'm inclined to agree with that assumption. But the public vote only accounts for 50% of the points, so it's still conceivable Ukraine could fail to win if the juries go heavily against them. OK, even the juries are composed of human beings who may be influenced either consciously or subconsciously by outrage at the brutal, unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country. But I recall back in 1993-4 that there was speculation that Bosnia-Herzegovina (then in the grip of a horrendous civil war) might win the contest on a sympathy vote, and that didn't even come close to materialising. In those days, points were 100% determined by national juries.
Basically if Ukraine finish in the top three in the jury points, they should have enough public votes to power to victory. But if they slip below the top three, it might be more of a challenge for them. For what it's worth, the current betting for the jury vote alone has the UK ahead and Ukraine in second place. That could conceivably be based on a leak of the actual results, because the jury vote took place last night on the basis of the performances during what is known as either a "rehearsal" or the "jury final". So if it is a leak, we're perhaps looking at an overall Ukraine win - but I've lost count of the number of times people have assumed that movements in the betting markets were caused by leaks, and then been proved wrong.
The other big story here is that the UK, perennial also-rans in the contest in recent years, look like one of the two or three most probable beneficiaries if Ukraine stumble. I'm not quite sure how to feel about that - I always used to wholeheartedly support the UK entry until about a decade ago, and then my attitude changed completely. As we know, anything that creates a feel-good buzz about the UK "brand" can be potentially non-optimal for the Scottish independence movement. Not that a UK Eurovision win would be a killer blow or anything remotely like that, but it would certainly be on the front pages of all the papers, and then there'd probably be a campaign to bring the 2023 contest to the Hydro in Glasgow (a campaign that would likely fail, so it would be a double-edged sword for the Better Together brigade). However, although the UK are now clearly in the top three in the betting, they're still only rated as less than a 10% chance to win, so we probably shouldn't be panicking just yet.
We may need to brace ourselves for the UK being in first or second place for long stretches of the scoring, though, because the public votes are only added into the mix right at the end.
For what it's worth, here's my prediction, which is not a particularly radical one -