Debate raged on Twitter yesterday over the singing of Flower Of Scotland ahead of last night’s Scotland v Georgia match at Ibrox, with many football fans claiming that the anthem is no longer relevant.
The folk song has long roused the national football and rugby squads to victory or comforted them in defeat, and was played when Scottish gold medallists stepped up to the winner’s podium during the Commonwealth Games.
It was written by the late Roy Williamson of The Corries about the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn. Current controversy centres on the lyrics from the third chorus which declares: “But we can still rise now, and be the nation again.”
Some football fans believe it is no longer appropriate to sing this lyric, since Scotland chose on 18 September not to become independent. As David Steele tweeted when the crowd began to sing Flower Of Scotland at Gleneagles during the Ryder Cup: “They have some cheek. We had the chance to be a nation again and blew it.”
Passions were aroused again yesterday. Alec Ross tweeted: “If any Scotland fan at Ibrox today is thinking of singing Flower Of Scotland after voting No, please dinnae. I can’t bear it. Embarrassing.”
Barry Martin tweeted: “They should replace Flower Of Scotland with a minute’s silence.” One poster named Greg predicted: “Flower Of Scotland will belt out with new lyrics – ‘and sent them homeward, to run our affairs & economy’.”
Calum MacPherson tweeted: “Its an embarrassment to think that some who voted No, sing Flower Of Scotland. I hope they feel shame.”
And liamclarke said: “Flower Of Scotland is pure cringe, singing about freedom that we turned down.”
But there were also plenty of fans willing to stick up for the anthem. Colin Rae said: “Confining Flower Of Scotland to the dustbin is defeatist, we may as well pack up and go home with mentality like that.”
Fiona Krikwood said: “Some incredibly ignorant comments on Twitter about who is ‘entitled’ to sing Flower Of Scotland. We are ALL Team Scotland.”
And ‘Adam’ tweeted: “Disappointed to see some reactions on twitter about Flower Of Scotland. Anthem and Saltire aren’t Yes trademarks. Voted No with pride.”
Amid the furious debate, there was humour too, with Radio Scotland’s Off The Ball joking the Tartan Army may choose to substitute an alternative song – The Strawbs’ 1970s hit Part Of The Union.
When asked by Scotland on Sunday about the song, prominent Yes campaigner and singer Eddi Reader tweeted: “Don’t like lyric, it talks of war ... but a good melody. I prefer Auld Lang Syne as a national song... or Loch Lomond as Nicky Benedetti showed us at the Commonwealth Games. It’s time we dropped violence & celebrating it.”
The song was written in 1965 but was first adopted as a sporting anthem in 1974 when Billy Steele, a winger in the Scottish national rugby team, encouraged his team-mates to sing it during a British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa. It was later adopted as the national anthem for the Scotland rugby team. The Scottish football team followed suit by making it their pre-game anthem in the 1990s.
Yesterday many football fans en route to Ibrox were reluctant to let it go. Ian Pow and his son Jamie were resplendent in kilts and Scotland tops and both said they were looking forward to singing it. Mr Pow, who is in business sales, 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.” Jamie McGrigor, the Conservative MSP for Highlands and Islands said: “Flower Of Scotland is a very emotive tune, it almost wouldn’t matter what the words were, but when you sing Rule Britannia it doesn’t mean that Britain is going to rule the world. They sing it, like we sing Flower Of Scotland because it makes us feel good.”
Last night a spokesman for the SFA said: “The Scotland fans have shown a fondness for Flower Of Scotland in football, rugby and other sports and it is the established national anthem.”