IT was Scotland v. England last week. The opening ceremony saw football commentators talk about “the two national anthems” before God Save The King and Flower Of Scotland were sung with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Officially God Save The King is the ­national anthem of Scotland but no one views it as that nowadays; Flower Of Scotland is the accepted unofficial usurper. Both have their claims for fans and detractors, but both hark back to distant and violent pasts and have little to say about 21st-century realities.

What followed was the usual – God Save The King was booed and Flower Of Scotland was sung with ­impressive passion by a large part of Hampden. There was lots of predictable indignation. Ally ­McCoist got upset and chided his fellow Scots for their “lack of respect” – and England won 3-1.

This is a pantomime we know well. One indignant voice stated in the aftermath that: “Scotland should leave the Union if they think and act like that”. A few days before, The Daily Telegraph and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor got into righteous anger after Last Night Of The Proms was broadcast on the BBC with many EU flags being waved in the audience. They somehow thought this the responsibility of the BBC – when clearly it is just an outside broadcast, like ­Glastonbury and Wimbledon – and for heads to roll at the corporation.

The above episodes underline that the songs that we sing and celebrate in public spaces, along with the songs we consciously decide not to sing or stop ­singing, says something profound about who we are. This is true of every tribe, old and new, society and nation. It is equally true of Scotland and in the arc of the past 50-60 years offers significant pointers to what kind of society we are, what we collectively think, and the direction in which we are heading as a nation.

Scotland turns left: CND and folk music SCOTLAND in the mid-1950s was a very different place from the present. The Tories won over half the vote in 1955, and the SNP a mere 12,112 votes across the whole of the country, fielding two ­candidates. The Church of Scotland reached its all-time high membership of 1.3 million, with the 1951 census finding that 57.8% of Scots were church members compared to 22.9% in England and Wales.

All of this changed dramatically in a few years, ­beginning at the 1959 UK election when Harold ­Macmillan won a third successive Tory term (the ­previous two being under Winston Churchill and ­Anthony Eden) securing a majority of 100 seats. Yet in the same election, as England swung towards the Tories, Scotland swung to Labour. The Tories lost four seats to Labour, who emerged as the majority party in seats: beginning a break with the “national swing” that was to continue for decades.

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In the aftermath, the US requested basing rights for their nuclear weapons in the UK at Holy Loch, while Macmillan continued the long-discredited ­tradition of “Great British Power” delusion by trying to obtain an “independent British nuclear deterrent” which would be based at Faslane. These two connected events led to a political revolution across the UK which had a major impact in Scotland.

There was the emergence and influence in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), established in 1957 and now given added impetus. CND briefly won the Labour Party to its cause with its 1960 Annual Conference voting for its position on British unilateral disarmament, which the leadership reversed the ­following year, leaving no major UK political ­party championing unilateralism, and in ­Scotland the then small SNP standing apart from the consensus on the bomb.

Alongside this, a new generational ­politics of protest and radicalism emerged which saw young people rebel against the conformity of their elders. This ­provided a significant influx to those who marched with CND, and who in Scotland were galvanised by the decision to base ­American nuclear weapons and Polaris in the Firth of Clyde.

This movement cross-fertilised and ­intersected with the emerging folk music which was spreading out across the UK and West. In Scotland, this led to new folk songs being written and old ones remade and reclaimed. These included such songs as Ding Dong Dollar, We Dinna Want ­Polaris, The Polis O’ Argyll, and ­spreading its gaze: “They say that we’ve never had it sae guid” (taking aim at ­Macmillan and Tories) and Hamish ­Henderson’s Freedom Come-All-Ye. These protest songs were imbued with not only opposition to nuclear weapons and power, but ­republicanism, ­challenging authority, anti-Toryism, ­humour, and Scottish self-determination, raising the issue of autonomy and in whose name decisions were being made – with potentially fatal consequences for millions of Scots.

All this may have remained ­somewhat academic and a sub-strand of “the new left” were it not for the cross-over ­between this and the then micro-sized SNP. Shorn of any of the major parties ­championing CND and nuclear disarmament a host of young idealists joined the party who made an important ­contribution ­revitalising the party over the course of the 1960s pre-Hamilton.

Aided by this the modern SNP ­began to take form. The party assisted by ­organiser Ian Macdonald started to ­conduct ­by-election campaigns as the ­Liberals had been in England and in Bridgeton in 1961 and West Lothian in 1962 polled ­respectably. The candidate in the latter, Billy Wolfe, the following year designed a new symbol for the party which combined the St Andrew’s Cross, thistle and CND symbol: which endures to the present.

Scotland’s Tipping Point at Hampden and Murrayfield MAYBE though, an even more ­fundamental set of changes occurred, that were ­engineered by gatherings of Scots at international football and rugby matches at Hampden and Murrayfield, and ­witnessed on TV and radio by ­hundreds of thousands more.

In the immediate post-war era, God Save The King until 1952 and God Save The Queen afterwards was the one ­national anthem played. It was met with respect, reverence and an awareness of the shared project of the UK which the monarchy was one part of.

Then, as Scotland and the UK began to change, to become less deferential and less tied to a backward-looking ­version of Britishness, people (at first the ­Scottish men’s national football team) began to show their displeasure at God Save The Queen. They booed, agitated and even ­began to sing their own songs to the embarrassment and ­displeasure of the authorities. Academic Jack Brand in the 1970s commented on God Save The Queen at Scotland v England ­football matches that: “The sign for the band to play has also been the sign for a ­pandemonium of whistles, cat-calls and jeers to break out.”

Scotland then experienced its own “tipping point” in the Malcolm ­Gladwell sense. Over the course of a decade, from the mid-1960s into the mid-1970s, fans ­attending Scotland football ­matches stopped respectfully singing God Save The Queen, with a key change ­occurring in 1966-67. Fans started singing their own songs – primarily Flower Of ­Scotland – in such numbers that eventually the ­authorities acknowledged this and dropped the UK national anthem for Scotland.

Where football fans ventured, the more middle-class supporters of rugby at ­Murrayfield eventually followed. This was not tidy and consensual at the time but contested, with football fans in ­particular being told in time-honoured patronising manner to “behave themselves” and “not embarrass the nation and team”.

After Scotland beat England at ­rugby 20-17 at Murrayfield last year one ­pro-Union commentator wrote about his disgust at Scottish fans singing Flower Of Scotland, offering this caricature: ­“Disgust with everything English becomes visceral, and to be Scottish is deeply, palpably, almost despairingly, the only thing you want to be.”

One interesting feature is how Flower Of Scotland quickly embedded itself in our national consciousness. Written by Roy Williamson of The Corries and first heard in 1967, within a short time, it took on the status of a classic folk song.

In the distant mid-1970s at primary school, amongst all the traditional songs sung in class, I was regularly guided through the words of Flower Of ­Scotland by teachers doing their utmost to be ­apolitical and steer off controversy. ­Today it is almost impossible to ­understand modern Scotland without reference to the song, with its words and sentiment everywhere, and the phrase “Rise Now and Be a Nation Again” ubiquitous.

There is a relationship between ­football, song and music, that is ­important to understand.

“It is not true that the ­competition on the football field has helped to launch the political nationalist movement” said Brand in a study of the subject in the 1970s.

He went on: “The sequence of events suggests it was the political ­developments and events like the winning of the ­Hamilton by-election which led to them rather than the competition in sports leading to nationalism.”

Singing our own songs in our own voices

ANOTHER musical watershed came when The Proclaimers appeared for the first time on Channel 4’s cutting-edge music programme The Tube in January 1987. At that point, Charlie and Craig Reid had not yet released an album or single, and were therefore unknown to most of the audience on that Friday night.

The National: UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 28:  SHEPHERD'S BUSH EMPIRE  Photo of PROCLAIMERS  (Photo by Brigitte Engl/Redferns).

The brothers sang two numbers – Throw The ‘R’ Away and Letter From America – and for many, the moment was electric. Here were two young Scots ­singing in their own accents about real things that concerned Scots, our ­experiences, past and present, how we are perceived by others – and doing so with wit and without apology.

Gerry Weir, from Edinburgh, reflects on that moment: “[I] sat in our student flat with a collective ‘WTF’ filling the air.”

Andrew McKenna from Glasgow remembers: “That was mind-blowing to eight-year-old me. You hardly heard ­anyone with a Scottish accent on TV ­unless they were speaking in a Scots RP.”

Sandie Blair of Kirkcaldy said: “I was just blown away by this performance. Brilliant lyric, harmonies and delivered with total conviction.”

Another viewer says of that evening: “I remember this like it was yesterday. We’d never seen or heard anything like it on the telly. Our accents! It was brilliant and refreshing in equal measures.”

Cultural commentator Stuart Cosgrove recalls: “I interviewed The Proclaimers for the NME around the time they ­appeared on the music magazine show The Tube. It was a period of awakening for me and many exiled Scots in London. I remember going to a show they did in London with my sister and it was packed to the rafters with Scots like us who had been drawn to London. The joy and ­camaraderie at the show was palpable.”

The backdrop to The Proclaimers’ ­appearance is critical. This was the age of high imperial Thatcherism, the poll tax passing through the UK Parliament with Scotland treated as “guinea pigs” – a ­backdrop to Thatcher and the Tories winning a third term a few months later while Scots voted against this.

The story of the Proclaimers has ­contributed to the musical and ­political landscape of Scotland. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) has become a song of ­collective celebration and what Barbara Ehrenreich would describe as “collective joy”: so potent and powerful that authorities, corporations and advertisers have tried to claim it for their brands but can never completely appropriate it.

Then there is the musical of their songs, Sunshine On Leith which became an award-winning film of the same name.

The layers of this are multiple. The ­Proclaimers may be “national ­treasures” but refuse to completely play the game and sell out. Charlie and Craig remain grounded, self-deprecating and ­deeply ­political while also singing songs about emotions, love, relationships and ­growing old. The brothers’ songs ­combine ­defiance, ­resistance and exuberance, with the film Sunshine On Leith – in the words of cultural academic Eleanor Yule “challenging typical cinematic representations of Scotland that can only be ­described as ‘cultural miserablism’”.

This is the backdrop to our ­collective journey, hope, disappointment, and links to how we make and remake our ­memories, and collective memories of the past, through what are called “flashbulb memories”. These defining events affect how we understand society, the times we have experienced and remember, and how we recreate the representations and images of events and moments we witness second-hand – such as the assassinations of John F Kennedy in 1963 and John Lennon in 1980, and in the UK, for an earlier generation, funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965, and more recently, that of Queen Elizabeth in 2022.

Just as vivid and important are those which have contributed to the making of modern Scotland. Not all are directly political like Margaret Thatcher’s ­“Sermon on the Mound”; the Thatcher-Kirsty Wark interview when the former referred to herself in the royal “We” as “We in Scotland”; the imposition of the poll tax; or Tony Blair’s march to war in Iraq as millions marched across the UK and the length and breadth of Scotland.

As critical are those moments of coming together – the successive appearance of the Scotland men’s football team at five World Cups which provided a host of memories, bad (Argentina) and good (unbeaten in 1974, and that Archie Gemmill goal); the rise of the women’s football team; the triumph of the Scotland rugby team winning the Grand Slam in 1990 and many more.

What unites these is that these are ­collective memories and moments, and their vividness and poignancy are supplemented by a musical soundtrack that has given voice, song and lyrics to who we are and how we see ourselves.

It is appropriate to leave the last words to Ian Hamilton who, as a young student with his Glasgow University friends, took back the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950. ­Looking back on a Scotland utterly changed from his youth he viewed that the songs we sing had changed, writing: “Nobody sang in Scotland in the ­middle part of the century. To be more correct, those who sang did not derive their songs from Scotland. Their sources were ­foreign and what they sang was only an alien copy of other people’s ways of life.”

He saw a very different Scotland in the early 1990s compared to the past: “Now everyone sings Scottish songs, and if I were a Unionist politician of whatever party, but especially of the Labour ­Party, I would be counting the songs, rather than the votes. The people who make the songs of a country have a habit of making the laws also.”

Perhaps that is a little too romantic for some but it contains a kernel of truth. What we sing and who sings says something about who we see ourselves as ­being and how we stake our claim in the world. Maybe in his heart, Ally McCoist knows this too.