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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 111 - Flower of Scotland evokes a drizzly, depressing Sunday at a Scottish seaside resort


THERE was a time when all the world was young, lad, when crisp curls clustered on my now bare, ruined scalp, when a second edition of my chin had not been published and when I was an example of imperialist obedience, who stood when the national anthem was played in cinemas, theatres and elsewhere while disrespectful crowds might stampede, like wildlife before a forest fire, towards the exits.

I donít stand for much now, but when I began bobbing up it was in the middle 1930s for good King George V. Audiences rose jerkily, like badly-operated marionettes, to adjure the Almighty to send the bluff, bearded old boy happy, glorious and perpetually victorious.

In the cinema, you got your moneyís worth in anthemal terms. The music accompanied shots of the British battlefleet in line-ahead formation firing broadsides to enforce Pax Britannica. Anyone who objected to this explosive statement of foreign policy was likely to get a severe dunt from a 15-inch shell. At one corner of the screen, under an admiralís hat, the coin-recognisable, kingly profile gazes serenely into the imperial distance. You knew where you were with a British-made broadside, as reliable as a Rolls Royce limo, a Raleigh roadster or a bottle of HP Sauce.

After the Second World War, the British population, on its last legs, shakily sagged to attention and later made slightly shamefaced tactical withdrawals when the national anthem engulfed them like a dam burst. Nowadays, it tends to be acknowledged with either resignation or irritation.

I STILL stand, stiff as a rolled umbrella, for the old Queen, not as a monarchist but as a grim, black-browed bastion of good manners. Although I stand for anthems, I cannot stand them. I regard most as pieces of patriotic pomposity, overblown pride, arrogance, near-nonsensical aspirations as well as a mixture of exhortations, adjurations and impertinent demands to the Deity with phrases like, "Let tyrants fear/tremble/flee/perish: arise, awake, fly the flag, raise the torch, smite the foe, up with, down with, God defend, forfend, intercede." God this, God that and "Heaven preserve us and backcomb the front teeth of enemies."

Afghanistan has one of the most apposite anthems. "Become hot, become more hot," it opens, "You, the holy sun of freedom. Through the storm, we have come to the end of the road." Next to Iraq, there are few hotter places in this anthem-singing planet.

Now Scotland has been given the go-ahead to decide its own national anthem, a devolved issue, say Scottish Parliament lawyers, that could be legislated on by a rousing chorus of MSPs with, one supposes, the public being invited to chime in.

Well, good for us. For a country that is one of the unhealthiest in Europe, where the population total is in serious slippage and many of those that remain are waddling in obesity where hospital waiting lists are, despite millions on NHS expenditure, not diminishing and where the average male, unlikely to reach 70, is as endangered as the natterjack toad, a national anthem for the land oí cakes and once perceived as Godís own little oil platform, can hardly be regarded as a prime priority.

IF WE must have our tuneful toffee apple, let me say that when it comes to the crunch and whatever interesting results this paperís readership poll on the subject produces, I will never stand for Flower of Scotland - a distressingly vacuous offering with a tune that evokes a drizzly, depressing Sunday at a Scottish seaside resort with even the promenade crazy-golf closed. Scots Wha Hae has a noble ring but sounds like a threnody for a Rangersí defeat. Burnsís A Manís A Man, while fitting in sentiment, suggests the expiring moans of a large ruminant and, although jaunty, Scotland the Brave evokes the image of someone being beaten-up rhythmically in a close.

Other offerings fail to strike patriotic chords with me and I suggest that Scotlandís national leitmotiv should not only be aspirational but also lift the spirits with some of the rousing qualities of Yes, We Have No Bananas and Ten Green Bottles ...

Words? For a modern, punitively-taxed, industrially-struggling nation with more than its fair share of gross national products, I suggest: "Hail, great chairman of the corporate universe. Make us a leader for righteous cuts in council taxes and expansion of smoking-free zones, even unto private dwellings. Draw to our shining shores foreign business investment and on our private and public finance initiatives, let triumph crown and do not let our shares go down."

Given inspirational rhyming and scanning, that should give us something to sing about.


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