Brian Ferguson: National anthem offers opportunities

60 per cent members of the official Scotland Supporters Club were against Flower of Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna
60 per cent members of the official Scotland Supporters Club were against Flower of Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE Scottish Football Association is not exactly renowned for seizing the initiative.

But that is what happened with its surprise snap poll on whether Flower of Scotland should be adopted as the national anthem.

At a stroke, it took an issue which had long been the preserve of politicians and placed it in in the hands of supporters. It is hard to recall many previous occasions when Scottish football fans have been properly consulted on a major issue, far less something as contentious as this.

The prompt for the poll, which generated more than 35,000 responses in 48 hours, was a lone student’s Holyrood petition. While the result was decisively in favour, the result was by no means a landslide. Dig deeper into the findings and the issue’s complexity is all too apparent.

Surprisingly, 60 per cent members of the official Scotland Supporters Club were against Flower of Scotland being given official anthem status, even though nearly 56 pent of all those who took part in the survey supported the move.

Almost two thirds of the paying punters who attend matches home and away were in favour of an alternative to Flower of Scotland, as well as the other most-commonly-mooted options, including Caledonia, Scotland the Brave and Highland Cathedral.

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To complicate matters further, the SFA’s poll only asked what song should become an official national anthem, not what should be played on the pitch before kick off, a subtly different matter.

One can begin to see why the Scottish Government is less than enthusiastic about tackling the issue when there is no obviously clear consensus.

Despite Alex Salmond’s regular pronouncements on the matter, I suspect Nicola Sturgeon has more pressing priorities.

But if a large chunk of the Tartan Army is unconvinced of Flower of Scotland’s merits, where does this leave the SFA’s use of a 50-year-old song about a 400-year-old battle?

It has already shown admirable open-mindedness by backing a new anthem for the current set of European qualifiers, penned by Lanarkshire indie-rock band Vigo Thieves. Here’s another idea.

Instigate a high-profile competition to pen a new anthem to be played before or during the half-time interval at international matches.

Approach the likes of Dougie MacLean, Rod Stewart and Amy Macdonald to help judge the best songs. Stage a live showdown at Hampden. And maybe even join forces with the SRU to come up with a song to unite the nation’s football and rugby fans for perhaps the first time.

Or is that just taking things too far?