Simon Cowell tips a homegrown act to win Britain's Got Talent this year

X Factor judge joins David Walliams and defends decision not to hold auditions for ITV entertainment show in Scotland

Simon Cowell has vowed to prove that Britain really does have talent after the last two series of his ITV show were won by a dance troupe from Hungary and a dog called Pudsey.

Cowell, who will be back on ITV with the eighth season of Britain's Got Talent on Saturday, the first full series since he signed a new deal with the broadcaster worth up to £150m last year, said: "I think [the winner] will be someone British this year."

But despite the talent show's most famous discovery to date, Susan Boyle, hailing from West Lothian in Scotland, Scottish fans of the show had to do without an audition in their home country this year.

Asked at the programme's launch on Wednesday why the producers had not travelled to Scotland, Cowell said: "It's a very good question. I wanted to but David [Walliams] didn't want to – he doesn't like Scottish people.

"We have got to be fair. We get calls from all the cities now; we've got Scottish people, we just didn't go to Scotland."

His fellow judge, former Little Britain star Walliams, added: "Because we nearly got lynched there last time, that's the answer. And we went to Belfast this year, which we didn't do last year."

Cowell will be under pressure to deliver after signing a three-year contract with ITV last November committing him to the channel until the end of 2016.

Cowell will alsoreturn as a judge on his other ITV show, The X Factor, for the first time since 2010 in a bid to reverse the show's falling ratings. Another former judge, Cheryl Cole, will also return.

Britain's Got Talent is one of the most popular programmes on TV but it has also seen its ratings decline despite the addition of Walliams to its judging panel.

Last year's final had an overnight audience of 11.1 million viewers, nearly a million down on the previous year when it was won by Pudsey the dancing dog and its trainer, Ashleigh Butler.

At its Boyle-driven peak in 2009, more than 17 million viewers tuned into the final results show to see the Scottish singer beaten to the title by dance act Diversity.

Cowell and Walliams were joined by the show's other judges, Amanda Holden and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Alesha Dixon, for the new series launch.

This year's show features acts from as far afield as France, Greece, Germany, the United States and Ukraine.

The talent show, presented by ITV's two other biggest stars, Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, was criticised by some viewers last year after it was won by Attraction, a shadow dance group from Hungary. The winning act takes home £250,000 and the chance to perform at the Royal Variety Performance.

Cowell said: "We do attract more foreign acts and they are welcome. I think its one of the reasons why we get so many people from around the world entering the show, because it is a huge deal for them to perform in front of the royal family.

"I like it because it makes it a bit more of a competition – the Brits versus the world. I am sure a Brit will win this year."

In a twist to the usual format, the new series features a "golden buzzer" which the judges can only use once, giving the act on stage an automatic place in the live semi-finals.

Cowell, who became a father for the first time this year, said having a baby did not make him any more appreciative of the younger acts.

"If someone is useless you are not suddenly going to go, 'you're fantastic!', because you've had a baby," said Cowell, whose son Eric was born on Valentine's Day. He added: "I had a baby before I had a baby. Working with David."

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John Plunkett

The GuardianTramp

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