Popular tune has an edge of nasty nationalism and dwells on enmity, says Alastair Cameron
A fantastic thing about the Six Nations rugby championship is the all-pervading sense of intense yet immensely friendly rivalry. That friendly rivalry is felt most keenly at the Calcutta Cup match between Scotland and England.
In my youth, supporting Scotland in the Five Nations, it seemed a bit of fun to support any team – yes, any team – playing against England. As I started to see and understand more of the world, that pettiness wore off. But I still sang Flower of Scotland proudly, without thinking too much about it.
Of course, I hope that Scotland triumph at Twickenham on Saturday. But I find myself increasingly turned off by Flower of Scotland.
The 2014 Scottish referendum threw anti-English sentiment into sharp relief, and it wasn’t nice. Not everywhere and not all the time. But it was there, sometimes lurking just below the surface – and sadly often only too visible. I’m sure there will be many who insist the 2014 campaign was civic and joyous. It may have felt like that to them, but I challenge them to find many pro-UK people in Scotland who agree.
And that’s the thing about Flower of Scotland – it has an edge of nasty nationalism about it. It’s all about defining ourselves by standing against the people who are now our neighbours, our fellow citizens, our closest kin and our greatest support.
Being Scottish shouldn’t be about enmity with our neighbours, should it?
Flower of Scotland isn’t even a traditional Scottish tune: it’s a song from the 1960s. Surely our ‘national anthem’, even one used informally, should celebrate the many positives about Scotland, not a 700 year old battle?
That’s where Scotland the Brave comes in. It’s also not that old, though it does date back to the start of the 20th century. But it’s packed with positive imagery, and set to a more upbeat tune.
The words are the part that matter, of course. They celebrate the ‘high endeavour’ that we should all have, along with high spirits, brave hearts, and the ‘friends that greet you’. They’re not ‘against’ anyone, and are more compatible with our decision of 2014 and the forward-looking Scotland for which we should strive.
We Scots have the potential to be everything we need and want to be, within the UK. There’s no need to demonise our friends and relatives in England. There is more that unites us with them than divides us from them. I believe we can achieve more as part of the UK family than if we were outside it.
So let’s not define ourselves by who we are supposedly against – the essential feature of nationalism. Let’s celebrate who we are, and who we can be, in the ‘land of my heart forever, Scotland the Brave’.
Alastair Cameron is the founder and executive director of Scotland In Union