THE Royal Scottish National Orchestra has taken up Jack McConnell's call to debate a future national anthem for Scotland after the Scottish Parliament rejected the First Minister's idea.
The RSNO is to play five of the most popular choices at its "Last Night of the Proms" concert in Edinburgh and open an internet vote to choose the favourite.
It is billed as the first poll of its kind in the long-running argument over whether Scotland needs its own anthem, and if so, what it should be. "We are a national symphony orchestra and it's entirely appropriate that we should lead some kind of discussion on this," said Simon Woods, the RSNO chief executive.
The debate over a national anthem was stirred again at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, where successful Scottish athletes were saluted by Scotland the Brave. Not for the first time, people questioned if it struck the right note. Mr McConnell later called for a national debate on an anthem to be played at sporting events, but Holyrood's enterprise committee turned down a subsequent move by Michael Matheson, a Scottish National Party MSP, to initiate the debate.
The RSNO announced yesterday that on the last night of the RSNO ScottishPower Proms concert in Edinburgh, the audience will be invited to sing along lustily with the five tunes.
They are Robert Burns's A Man's a Man for a' that and Scots Wha Hae!, the more modern Highland Cathedral, Scotland the Brave and the Corries' tune Flower of Scotland. Two tunes sometimes mentioned, Auld Lang Syne and Freedom Come All Ye, by Hamish Henderson, were left off the list.
Flower of Scotland is traditionally sung at rugby matches, but is often accused of being anti-English. A Man's a Man for a' that was sung at the opening of the Scottish Parliament. Mr McConnell named Highland Cathedral, written in 1982, as his favourite. It has words written by Ben Kelly, an Inverness tenor and composer.
The RSNO website, rsno.org.uk will carry recordings of the songs, as well as the chance to vote in an online poll and join a web debate.
The voting will be open between 11 and 30 June. On 1 July, the results will be announced live at the Last Night concert in Glasgow. Mr Woods said: "I don't think anyone has ever voted on it before.
"We are not doing a binding vote, where we are going to submit it to the Executive to decide. It's just an opportunity to gauge public feeling about it.
"National anthems have to fulfil a lot of things. They have to express the basic patriotic feeling of the country, but they also have to be singable by massed voices. If not, they can never really be adopted. This way we get to use the audience in the Edinburgh concert as guinea pigs to see how they all sound.
"I think every country needs an anthem. It's a great thing that enables people to get behind a sense of national unity."