Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Poll results : Flower of Scotland is your choice for an independent Scotland's national anthem

Many thanks to the 507 people who voted in this blog's national anthem poll over the last 24 hours. No great surprise that the current de facto anthem was the clear winner - I suppose it's arguable that a 35% to 26% margin was a bit less emphatic that might have been expected, although I think if you look at the songs that finished second and third, you can begin to see the huge problem faced by those who want to oust Flower of Scotland from its perch. Freedom Come All Ye, in spite of its celebrated outing at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony last summer, just isn't a particularly well-known song, which leads me to strongly suspect that if this poll had been conducted among the wider public and not just the readers of a political blog, the second-placed song would instead have been Caledonia, complete with its home-spun lyrics like "lost the friends that I needed losing". Assuming it's unlikely that such a song would ever be put forward as an official national anthem, where is Flower of Scotland's true rival to be found?

The two songs that have previously been considered unofficial national anthems - Scotland the Brave and Scots Wha Hae - achieved no more than respectability in this poll, and I suspect the majority of people these days don't even know the tune to Scots Wha Hae (although more of that later). My own dark horse pick in the unlikely event that Flower of Scotland is displaced would be the nationalist-yet-conciliatory Both Sides The Tweed, but that finished even further down the rankings.

Which of these songs should be the national anthem of an independent Scotland?

Flower of Scotland : 182 (35%)
Freedom Come All Ye : 133 (26%)
Caledonia : 95 (18%)
Scots Wha Hae : 61 (12%)
Is There For Honest Poverty : 57 (11%)
Scotland the Brave : 40 (7%)
Highland Cathedral : 35 (6%)
Auld Lang Syne : 33 (6%)
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) : 26 (5%)
Both Sides The Tweed : 16 (3%)
Loch Lomond : 13 (2%)
The Dark Island : 6 (1%)
The Skye Boat Song : 4 (0%)
A Man Without Love : 4 (0%)
Land of Light : 4 (0%)
The Thistle o' Scotland : 1 (0%)

The percentages are calculated by dividing the votes for each song by the total number of voters (as opposed to the total numbers of votes), so they add up to more than 100.

There were also a number of 'write-in votes', some of them more serious than others -

Smeòrach Clann Dòmnaill : The song performed by Julie Fowlis at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. I was there at the time, and I do remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. It's hard to imagine a Hampden or Murrayfield crowd belting this one out, although it does boast a lovely understated patriotic verse, which translates as...

"If every other bird praises its own land
Why then should not I?
Land of heroes, land of poets
The hospitable, generous land of plenty"

Marche des Soldats de Robert Bruce : The French name for Hey Tuttie Taiti, the ancient tune Robert Burns used in slowed-down form for Scots Wha Hae, and which was reputedly played by Robert the Bruce's army just before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The reason it has an alternative name in French is that Joan of Arc's Scottish soldiers also played it a century later during the Siege of Orléans. I must admit the original faster version of the tune sounds much, much more plausible as a national anthem than Scots Wha Hae (judge for yourself HERE), and it can't be denied that no other song has a hope of matching it for historical significance.

Scotland Will Flourish by The Corries

Theme for the Early Days of a Better Nation

The lyrics of Scots Wha Hae set to the tune of War Pigs (by Black Sabbath)

Calum's Road by Donald Shaw

Weather With You by well-known Scottish band Crowded House

Teenage Kicks by well-known Scottish band The Undertones, or possibly Teenage Dream by well-known Scottish singer Katy Perry.

No Limit by 2 Unlimited (you get the idea).

The Chicken Song

Hearts of Olden Glory by Runrig

Scotland's Story by The Proclaimers

Dashing White Sergeant

The Ball of Kirriemuir

Fan Dabi Dozi by The Krankies

(At least no-one suggested John Barrowman's butchering of 80s pop classic Baby Give It Up.)


  1. Sorry I was too late to vote in the poll. I would probably have gone for Scotland the Brave, preferring it to Flower of Scotland because I wouldn't want an anthem for an independent Scotland which defines us only through our battles with the English. One that portrays a positive Scotland is better.

  2. Pop the top three to the readers. Alternative vote, and all that.

    1. I think a fourth consecutive post about the national anthem might try people's patience somewhat...

  3. Vote should have been by STV once the top five were clear. It does seem from your comments, James, that you have some personal bias against Caledonia.

    1. Absolute rubbish - I was at Bannockburn Live last year and was humming Caledonia to myself all the way back to the train station. I doubt if even Dougie MacLean sees it as a potential *official* national anthem - as someone said on the previous thread, it's more like Scotland's equivalent of The Fields of Athenry.

      If you want an STV poll, by all means send me the technology - polls on the Blogger platform are not as flexible as you seem to think.

  4. Marche desSsoldats de Robert Bruce is easily the best musical rendition and it would bring a tear to a glass eye.

    The challenge would be to update Burn's words to a more forward looking style.

    Could Freedom Come All Ye be grafted on somehow?

  5. I'm tickled that you added my 'Pigs wha hae' to the list. It wasn't really intended as a serious suggestion for national anthem.

    ... but it would sound pretty amazing.

  6. I had another idea, though too late for the poll. Mhairi's Wedding. An uplifting song wishing prosperity and happiness on a young woman. And it's got the word 'gaily' in it. What could be more appropriate for the Yes generation? And as a bonus it gets you up and dancing. What other country has a dance for a national anthem? :)

    1. The original version of the song in Gaelic is lovely too. She's got blonde hair in the Gaelic version though, and the singer is just expressing his love for her and that he's going to marry her.

      Here's a recording:

      He starts at 1:05 or so.

  7. Ok, I'm converted to Hey Tutti Taiti / Marche Des Soldats, though I suggest some totally new lyrics to it. If only Burns had set A Man's A Man to Hey Tutti Taiti...

    1. I dunno, I do quite like the words, although they are quite 'robust' in places. I think we need to remember that Burns was using the Bruce's stand against England to talk about the French-inspired revolutionary ideas of his day, rather than gloating about Bannockburn.

      It's interesting in a way that he thought Bannockburn was the safe subject matter in which to conceal his suspect ideas about liberty and egalitarianism - our modern view is pretty much the opposite.

      Still, 'Lay the proud usurpers low, Tyrants fall in every foe, Liberty's in every blow' is a corker. Burns took the essence of it from Blind Harry's The Wallace - a couplet he described as 'worthy of Homer'.

    2. Could you sing Scots Wha Hae that fast, though? I've just tried a couple of lines (quietly) and it sounds a bit forced. It's a fantastic tune but at that speed it might need simpler lyrics.

    3. Land of the Leal uses the original tune.

      Something that scans in similar fashion but more cheerful might do the job.

  8. Given FoS has held the unofficial top slot for decades, it should be a shoe-in as a nation anthem.....but the fact that it isn't reveals the genuine reservations that exist over using it.

    Time for a new song, written to celebrate the national life of a new nation?

  9. Ian, that was tried a couple of decades ago and the result was William Jackson's Land of Light... no, me neither.

    I think an anthem will have to gain acceptance organically, rather than the result of a competition.

    I do like that March des Soldats tune!

  10. After watching Marche des soldats de Robert Bruce I must admit that was a brilliant rendition.

    Do you need words when you have such a stirring music as this. FoS can't compete with that.

  11. Run -the poll again, including the add-ins, with links to all the songs, if possible. I never noted anything about add-ins or I would have included a vote for Theme for the Early Days of A Better Nation, with a recommendation for alternative endings dependent on the occassion: formal, sporting, celebration, other; all a possible without spoiling the feel of the song.

  12. We need to start from scratch - we need a proper, heavyweight, respected Scottish composer to write the music (I can, for obvious reasons, see problems with getting James MacMillan to do it) and then we need to reanimate Hugh MacDiarmid to provide the words. A grandiloquent modernist masterpiece it would be!

  13. The only way to make a choice would be for each song to be sung by a hundred or so ordinary folk who can hold a tune.
    That way we can hear how it would sound when sung as a national anthem - and it's that that puts FoS at the top for most folk.
    Freedom Come All Ye is one of my favourite songs - but not as an anthem. At the moment 95%+ of people would need a translation, and (sorry but ...) football crowds would turn it into a series of chants, at least for the first ten years - as they did with FoS.
    And to all those who claim FoS is a 'dirge' - have a listen to the tempo of GStQ and LoOF during the 6 Nations. They're slower, but no-one can doubt the passion of those singing them.

  14. While it would obviously be great to have a Scottish composer of a new national anthem, it is not that unusual to have a "foreign" composer.

    I see there is a list of "Foreign composers who wrote the music for a National Anthem" at Scroll down the page to see the list.

  15. It's not just the tempo that makes a song a dirge, it's mainly the melody and FoS is, unfortunately, pretty dirgey. God Save the Queen (Sex Pistols aside) is awful - boring and managing to be superior sounding at the same time as prosaic. England would be much better off with the visionary poetry of Blake's Jerusalem. Land of Our Fathers is superb - really soaring.

    I agree with you about Freedom Come All Ye - it's a fantastic protest but that's what it is, not a national anthem. That's why I think we need something that has yet to be written and why I'm sad - modern poets tend to be too anaemic to write the powerful words needed for a national anthem.

  16. Why the lack of "A mans a man"? Clearly the best option.

    1. Is There For Honest Poverty : 57 (11%)

      It's there. Again though, while anthemic, it's in no way a 'national' anthem. For me, it's very much in the same category as (but having less explicitly to do with Scotland other than the language it's written in than) Freedom Come All Ye - an internationalist protest cong

  17. Freedom Come A' Ye isn't a national anthem, it's an international anthem and you can't sing it at football games. Flower of Scotland is good for football games, but it's not that well written. A Man's a Man is among the worthiest of all but, like Freedom Come A' Ye, you can't sing it at football games or rugby or whatever. It has a place, yes, but the way it's written means it's hard to know all the words (I know most of it but it took me a long while). Scotland the Brave is an imperialist dirge and I'd rather not speak about it. Caledonia is enjoyable, but by god it's not national-anthem material (a popular song aye but we'd be a laughing stock if it was used at official functions). I love singing it but it's just not right for the task.

    I'm a nationalist, so this won't come as a surprise, but I think Scots Wha Hae, our de-facto national anthem in the early 19th century, is the best by miles. If you doubt me, have a listen here:

    There's few songs more stirring when it's sung well and it can be used both to inspire at sporting functions and also its lyrics transcend Bannockburn:

    "'By Oppression's woes and pains,
    By your sons in servile chains,
    We will drain our dearest veins,
    But they shall be free. "

    I think that could inspire any Human Rights organisation in the world.

    Another strength of Scots Wha Hae that very, very few people recognise is that it's just as good in Gaelic as it is in English. An important consideration for any truly "national" anthem of our country is that it should be accessible in the native languages of our country: Gaelic, Scots and English, otherwise it's not a national anthem.

    I don't know who wrote the Gaelic words to it, inspired by Burns, but whoever he was he was a bloody good songwriter. The poetry of it is outstanding. Here's an example:

    Skip ahead to 1:44. That's when he starts singing (the first part he just talks about how he's surprised it's so well written in Gaelic).