THAT hoary old debate about national anthems reared its nodding head last week, but this time round in a unique and fascinating context.

Liverpool fans booed God Save The Queen before the showpiece FA Cup Final against Chelsea and seemed to have irritated all the right people in the process.The game was live on telly, so I was able to participate in the squalid mayhem from the comfort of my own home.

There’s nothing quite like God Save The Queen to rouse your inner rebel.

I have huge respect for Liverpool fans. They know how to noise up the right people and with mountains of moral authority on their side.

After the final whistle, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told the offended media that most Liverpool fans were “wonderful people” and that it was important that their critics reflected on why they felt the need to reject the national anthem.

“I know our people well enough that they would not do it if there was no reason,” Klopp told the bristling press corp. There is nothing that the English mainstream media love better than to rush to the defence of her majesty.

Some newspapers are so transparent, their journalism seems like the written equivalent of the genuflect, that contorted abomination that Thresa May used to perfect on state occasions.

Sniffing out a story involving Buckingham Place and the English Premier League’s top team led the press to call Number 10 and a quote was dutifully provided on enquiry. The circle was complete. “It’s a great shame that as we were marking 150 years of the FA Cup, an event that brings people together, a small minority chose to act in that way,” a spokesman for Boris Johnson said.

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Yes, it was Boris Johnson commenting on public decorum.

There is something quaint about newspapers rushing to condemn the booing of God Save The Queen. It feels almost like a plea for yesteryear.

God Save The Queen is an anthem now rarely heard north of the Border. It has all but disappeared from Scottish public life except for lumpen Unionist fringe events and football fans who mainly sing it to provoke a reaction from their rivals rather than out of any meaningful sense of obedience to the throne.

Whatever God Save The Queen now represents in the English shires, it does not resonate in Scotland nor increasingly in Liverpool either. It is a national anthem with too much out-of-step deference and failed promises to command widespread respect. It is an anthem, like the Union itself, falling apart before our eyes.

Because we have many of our own grievances to parade it is important to take time to dwell on Liverpool’s tense history with the ruling Tory party and what the Reds last week described as “the establishment.”

Liverpool fans can provide a checklist of slights over decades now. There was the seething aftermath of Hillsborough, and the way the victims’ families were treated by the media, the police and central government.

Then there was the Thatcherite legacy when chancellor Geoffrey Howe advised the cabinet not to waste money on Liverpool as it was like “trying to pump water uphill”.

Last but by no means least there is the embattled current Prime Minister, who as Spectator editor accused the city of Liverpool of wallowing in “victim status” over the murder of Ken Bigley and the Hillsborough disaster.

Booing God Save The Queen may seem news in England, but it has been commonplace in Scottish football for decades now. It grew in volume throughout the 1960s, at the Rous Cup, and reached its crescendo when the auld enemies came head to head before the two-leg qualifiers for the 2000 European Championships. What was once vaguely controversial tipped into ritual and has become part of the Tartan Army’s trademark. It is now so common it passes virtually unnoticed.

Perhaps the moment that compares most directly with the Liverpool demonstration last week was when Margaret Thatcher was booed and shown red cards by Celtic and Dundee United fans at the Scottish Cup Final in 1988. A wave of political resentments had gathered around Thatcher. Prominent among them were Scotland’s guinea-pig role in the introduction of the poll tax, the wider deindustrialisation of central Scotland and Thatcher’s own screeching snobbery.

Thanks in large part to football, Liverpool has forged its own alternative anthem, the Rodgers and Hammerstein showtune You’ll Never Walk Alone, refashioned in the Merseybeat era by Gerry and The Pacemakers. It is a song about collective will and the drive to triumph over adversity. A show tune, turned pop hit then terracing anthem, ironically, is now more sophisticated in its meaning than the bellicose calls to war, victory, blood and soil of many national anthems, including La Marseillaise, Deutschland Uber Alles and our own flawed anthem Flower of Scotland.

Anthem are always tricky. My major reservation with Flower of Scotland is that it narrowly circumscribes Scotland’s achievements in relation to England and sees victories over our southern neighbours as of special status. For an ambitious nation it lacks ambition.

That said, the horse may already have bolted. Flower Of Scotland seems hugely popular at Murrayfield when sung by rugby fans and is Scotland’s de facto national anthem during events like the Commonwealth Games.

Has the song simply won by default or is there still a debate to be had about our own national anthem?

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Scotland does not have a settled national anthem and there is no sign that we will ever come across a song, either ancient or modern, that will meet the conflicting needs of a new and revitalised nation.

Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia, a love song to Scotland, is an obvious contender but it has always struck me as a diaspora song, about the desire to return home, rather than the challenges of being there.

Another frequent suggestion is Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come All Ye, a towering anti-imperialist song which embraces global unity.

Whilst Freedom Comes All Ye strikes all the right ideological notes and embraces international friendship, I have never been at an event or at a venue where more than a couple of people know the words. However popular it is within the ranks of anti-racism or international socialism, I have never heard it sung at any major sporting event.

Dick Gaughan’s version of Freedom Come All Ye, recorded back in 1989, is a cultural landmark but, again, too hidden away to register as part of our national conversation.

Much as I would like Henderson’s wisdom or Gaughan’s voice to sweep into our popular consciousness, I suspect it is no more than lefty wish-fulfilment and a long way from happening. Compared with the Tartan Army singing Runrig’s Loch Lomond, Henderson’s brilliant song is already marginal in the Hampden songbook.

If we cannot elevate someone of the stature of Hamish Henderson to widespread national recognition, then his great plea for world peace and reconciliation feels an even tougher task.

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Scotland could follow in the footsteps of Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina and avoid the many pitfalls of language, choosing an instrumental national anthem. In that scenario, an epic and soaring rendition of Highland Cathedral would come to the fore, edging out Amazing Grace and even Flowers O’ The Forest.

There is one huge upside to the absence of words – it avoids maudlin nostalgia and bellicose war cries. It also alleviates the pain of our international footballers mouthing the lyrics of a Taylor Swift song as they try to remember autumn leaves and Proud Edward’s retreat.

Football has seen some major events off the field; a young Blackpool player Jake Daniels who broke a silence that has always cloaked football, when he announced that he was gay. His historic pronouncement came the same weekend as Liverpool fans raged against the establishment forces that have failed their city.

Liverpool – they’ll never walk alone.