The SNP’s claims to present a nicer form of nationalism have always been dubious – the movement contains plenty of people whose attitudes are just as ugly as those you’ll find in any other similar cause.
One Nationalist official said the quiet part out loud this week when she tweeted, in response to the UK’s abysmal Eurovision performance, that “we hate the United Kingdom too”.
So far, so standard. But cannier Nationalists had a more dangerous response. Alyn Smith, their foreign affairs spokesman, used the result to argue that Scotland should be allowed to enter the contest separately. Indeed, he said that there were actually no legal barriers to it doing so.
The Government should strenuously resist any such effort. As I explained elsewhere, Britain competes as Britain on the international stage too infrequently as it is. With the happy exception of the Olympics, we lack the national sports teams which provide a common focus for patriotic pride in other countries.
As a result, those occasions where Britain does compete – even in something as intrinsically silly as Eurovision – are disproportionately important.
Recent governments have got this when it comes to the Olympics, where state funding has been ruthlessly directed towards those disciplines and athletes most likely to medal. The result has been extremely impressive performances in 2008, 2012, and 2016.
It’s time to bring that attitude to Eurovision. Simply letting BBC higher-ups choose our entrant has produced terrible results, so it’s time for change. Perhaps Oliver Dowden should even task the Corporation with setting up something akin to Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, a national talent contest which could give acts from across the country a chance to compete (and give us a benefit that isn’t dependent on the votes of other countries).
Lewis joins chorus for less stringent EU checks for Northern Ireland
Ministers are “increasingly worried” about the heavy-handed way the European Union is going about enforcing checks on goods crossing the trade border the Prime Minister agreed to put in the Irish Sea, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Irish Secretary, has claimed that Sainsbury’s are having difficulty moving foodstuffs to their stores in the Province – even though it has no outlets in the Republic, and there is thus no risk of such products entering the EU.
This comes amidst Government anger at claims by Dublin that it is “dangerously fuelling tensions” in Ulster. Irish commentators have been decrying David Frost’s warnings that the Protocol risks fuelling loyalist violence – apparently choosing to forget the way the threat of republican violence was regularly cited as a reason that a light-touch land border could not be countenanced.
Likewise, UK warnings that the Protocol risks undermining the Belfast Agreement are no more absurd than Irish and EU allegations that a land border would have done so.
All this is in line with what we first reported back in March: that Lord Frost’s appointment signalled that the Government was serious about securing substantive changes to the Protocol, which insiders insist the Government was effectively coerced into backing by the Benn-Burt Act. Ministers have already moved unilaterally once to make sure that food supplies to Ulster are not interrupted, and sources suggest they are quite prepared to do so again.
Meanwhile, the Sun reports that veterans who served in Northern Ireland face “fresh torment” as up to 50 ‘legacy inquests’ will launch within weeks, with more than a fifth of all deaths being investigated involving the military.
Ex-servicemen will be called to give evidence into historical killings, and some fear they may face prosecution – even after republican terrorists who commissioned atrocities such as the Brighton bombing have walked free.
Johnny Mercer, who recently quit the Government after accusing the Northern Ireland Office of ‘dragging its feet’ when it came to protecting British troops, attacked some of the inquests as “beyond parody”, including as they do events where “you had IRA men firing automatic weapons and detonating a device trying to kill RUC officers”.
Catch-up: Douglas Ross on the election results
Yesterday, I chaired our latest Zoon event on ‘Scotland the the Future of the Union’ featuring Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Tories, alongside Mandy Rhodes of Holyrood magazine and Professor Nicola McEwan from the Centre for Constitutional Change.
If you missed it, the full video is now available and you can watch it here.