Scots win right to choose own national anthem

SCOTLAND was given the go-ahead yesterday to decide its own national anthem in a ruling that is likely to pave the way for a nationwide contest to decide the nation’s official song.

Officials had insisted that the choice of the anthem was the preserve of Westminster and could not be decided by MSPs. But lawyers for the Scottish Parliament ruled yesterday that the national anthem is a devolved issue and MSPs could legislate on the issue if they wished.

The landmark decision sparked an immediate flurry of interest from MSPs eager to get the public involved in the choice. Michael Matheson, the Scottish National Party’s culture spokesman, wrote to George Reid, the Presiding Officer, asking him to support a move within parliament to decide the issue.

Mr Matheson said: "I’m pleased that the Scottish Parliament can finally take responsibility for Scotland’s national anthem. However, it is now up to the parliament to take the lead on this issue and we must ensure that the public are fully involved in the decision- making process."

Chris Ballance, a Green Party MSP who has lobbied for an official Scottish anthem, intends to launch a campaign early next week to galvanise public support for a change.

Mr Ballance has already tabled a parliamentary motion calling for Robert Burns’s ’A Man’s a Man for a’ That’ to be adopted - although it is understood that he does not mind what is chosen, as long as a definite decision is taken.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman was careful to keep ministers away from the issue, stating that it was a matter solely for the parliament.

The decision by the Scottish Parliament’s lawyers came about only because of the tireless work of an Edinburgh pensioner, George Reid.

Mr Reid had previously secured a major success when he persuaded the Scottish Executive to set an official shade of blue for the Saltire - Pantone 300.

Mr Reid harried the parliament and the Executive for months before Jim Wallace, then the justice minister, agreed to set the colour of the national flag. After that success, Mr Reid turned his attention to the national anthem and has been lobbying the parliament for months to find out who has the authority to decide on the issue.

After being pushed from Holyrood to Westminster and back again, Mr Reid finally got the decision he wanted yesterday when he was told by the clerk to the Holyrood petitions committee that lawyers had agreed that the national anthem was the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. Mr Reid said: "I would like the Scottish Parliament to launch a competition. The country is teeming with musicians and poets. Surely we can come up with one of each to come up with something that we can be proud of." He added: "I just cringe when I hear Flower of Scotland. I refuse to define myself in terms of the English. I don’t think we should be backward-looking."

The issue of a national anthem is sure to divide the country because there are so many alternatives.

As well as Scots wha hae, there is the Burns classic A man’s a man for a’ that, which has a special resonance for the Scottish Parliament since the rendition by Sheena Wellington on opening day in 1999.

There is, of course, Flower of Scotland, now well known because of its use at Murrayfield and Hampden. Scotland the Brave and Highland Cathedral are popular pipe tunes but possibly lack recognisable words to go with them, while the more modern-minded might go with Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia.

One option that cannot be discounted, despite its reputation as an anti-Scots song, is "God Save the Queen".

Have your say

Which song should become Scotland’s national anthem? Vote by text or phone.

• 1001 God Save the Queen

• 1002 Scots wha hae

• 1003 Flower of Scotland

• 1004 Scotland the Brave

• 1005 Caledonia

• 1006 A man’s a man for a’ that

• 1007 Highland Cathedral

• 1008 An entirely new piece of music

TEXT 07736 101010 Create a text starting with the word TSVOTE, followed by a space then the four-digit code of the song you’re voting for. Then leave another space and enter your name and postcode (eg TSVOTE 1001 John Smith EH1 1AB).

CALL 0906 948 6606, and when prompted key in the number of your favourite song and follow the instructions.

To enter by text will cost you the price of a text message at your network’s rate. To enter by phone will cost 10p per minute. Calls last no longer than two minutes.