EVER SINCE it inspired Scotland to victory over England in the Calcutta Cup a quarter of a century ago, Flower of Scotland has been a fixture at Scottish sporting events.
Although it is sung lustily at Murrayfield and Hampden, the patriotic folk song has never been officially installed as the national anthem.
Yesterday, MSPs were asked to consider formally adopting it as the national anthem when they were presented with a petition arguing that doing so would unite the country.
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But far from bringing the MSPs together, the petition served as reminder that Flower of Scotland would not be everyone’s choice.
After considering the matter, MSPs on Holyrood’s petitions committee urged the Scottish Government to consider endorsing the idea of a Scottish national anthem – but were divided as to what it should be.
The committee recommended ministers launch a consultation into approving a national anthem that would examine the arguments for Flower of Scotland as well the case for a new song by a modern composer. Any such consultation would also have to look at the merits of other existing Scottish songs .
Despite its popularity, many people have reservations about Flower of Scotland, written by the late Roy Williamson of the Corries. Critics say it harbours anti-English sentiment by harking back to Bannockburn.
But presenting his petition, Chris Cromar, an Aberdeen University student, argued that the verse beginning, “Those days are gone now, and in the past they must remain” addressed these concerns.
Appearing before the committee, Mr Cromar said: “Flower of Scotland is a song that helps unite the nation. Scotland football fan Ian Pow summed this up before Scotland’s first match after September’s referendum when he said: ‘There is nothing like hearing 50,000 people sing this song. The No vote in the referendum has nothing to do with it and I read the lyrics as meaning we can rise up and be a better nation, be more successful and victorious.’ This comment shows that this song is about Scotland and brings people together regardless of their political beliefs or backgrounds.”
In support of Flower of Scotland, ex-Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill claimed other countries were not criticised for having anthems that referred to historical events.
He cited France’s Marseillaise, which was inspired by the French Revolution, and Wales’s Land of My Fathers, which refers to conflict with England.
But committee convener John Pentland of Labour said he would prefer something more forward looking. He said: “This petition has brought up important issues on how Scotland sees itself. While many people may see Flower of Scotland as a good song, is it a good reflection of modern Scotland, or could it be a reminder of old divisions?
“Perhaps Scotland’s wealth of musical talent could be called on to create something new?
“We will now ask the Scottish Government if it will carry out a consultation, as well as engaging with a range of sports organisations that have adopted Flower of Scotland as their own over the years.”
A consultation on a national anthem would also have to look at existing contenders. For decades, Scots Wha Hae, with its lyrics by Robert Burns about Bruce’s Address at Bannockburn, has served as an unofficial national anthem. But while sung at the SNP conference, it has not captured the public’s imagination as Flower of Scotland has.
Another possibility is Caledonia by Dunkeld-based singer/songwriter Dougie MacLean. With its patriotic lyrics, it has proven extremely popular and Alex Salmond is a big fan.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Although we have no current plans to designate a distinct national anthem for Scotland, we do see the value in having one for our sporting teams.
“Scotland has many fine traditional and contemporary tunes, which could be stirring national anthems – and if ministers were minded to take this forward, it would be right for the people to be consulted.”
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