From Tear Drops to a Failure to Lose Ambitions for Building an Empire
"Scotland’s 2013 Eurovision triumph: by Fraser Nelson, 19 May in The Spectator, a right of centre political weekly HERE
"Last [weeks] Eurovision was, as always, a collision of music, culture and politics. As always, the official British entry was dire – but, as always, the invisible hand of Britain’s world-class musicians lay behind many acts that did well. So it was with Denmark’s winner, Emmelie de Forest, whose song Only Teardrops won by quite a margin. For CoffeeHousers who didn’t catch last night’s awards, here it is.
From the first note, you can tell something is up. If this is a Danish entry, why the Celtic flute? It wasn’t a homage to Belfast Child. Ms de Forest has, since the age of 14, been learning from and performing with Fraser Neill, one of Scotland’s world class folk musicians. His influence was audible last night.
Most Brits think that Eurovision is confected tat. Denmark doesn’t seem to have received that memo, and fielded an entry which showcased its national assets from the music to the voice to the dress. It had a (Scottish) immigrant’s influence – as do most of Europe’s great achievements. And the song was distinguished not by some generic Eurotrash drumbeat but the penny whistle, drums and the voice of a rising star of the Danish folk scene. The percussion, a major part of the song, was by the Copenhagen Drummers. Last night, a nation gave its best and wowed a continent. We didn’t, and didn’t.
The below video gives an example about how Emmelie de Forest has spent much of the last five years: performing in budget venues with Fraser Neill and interpreting the traditions of Scotland’s folk scene for new audiences.
You can imagine the guy who took this film putting the camera down afterwards and thinking: yup, this girl’s got something pretty special. I’ve thought the same of countless Scots singers I’ve seen in pubs in Edinburgh and Inverness – but they tend not to get the big breaks they deserve (unless they move to Nova Scotia or, in Fraser Neill’s case, Denmark). The so-called Scottish Arts Council tends to spend its money on imported art.”
Scotland's Union with England that Adam Smith supported has run its course. The situation in the late 20th century (after the First Empire, which Adam Smith warned against on the grounds that "Great Britain should "endeavour to accommodate her future views and designs to the real mediocrity of her circumstances" - very last line of the Wealth Of Nations) and the very obvious continuing decline in the 21st century, makes it imperative that Scotland re-assesses its relationship within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, not known for his support for Scottish independence, makes a very telling point about Scotland's place in Europe. The relatively trivial cause of the lesson he draws from the Euovision Annual Song Contest is symptomatic of what Scottish voters have an opportunity to vote for on 18th September 2014.
I often feel Scotland has more in common in political economy with countries, like Denmark, Norway and Sweden than our southern neighbour, England, exemplified on this occasion by Emmelie de Forest and Fraser Neill.
I also think, occasionally, about how different our history could have been if British governments had heeded Adam Smith's advice when, courtesy of George Washington and his army, they had lost that first Empire and had the opportunity to "free herself from the expense of defending these provinces in time of war, and of supporting their civil or military establishments in time of peace" (Wealth Of Nations) but, instead, they embarked almost without pause on building a new Empire on what was left in parts of Canada, some Caribbean Islands, and toeholds that had promise of a new Empire in India, Australasia, the Pacific and the Cape of Good Hope. The Seven Years war in Europe cost £100 million (billions in today's money), and successive wars , including WW1 & 2, cost much more. That Empire too has now gone. Yet the pretence of "Great" Britian goes on. So does the worsening "mediocrity of her circumstances".