IT’S the UK-wide initiative that’s been praised as patriotism and denounced as fascism.

Supported by the UK Government, the first ever One Britain One Nation (OBON) day was held on Friday to “spread the message of pride, unity, love [and] respect”, with school children encouraged to sing a song by the same name that praised military prowess and British strength.

The Department for Education urged all schools to take part.

Founder Kash Singh, an ex-police officer from Bradford, said he’s been “appalled and dismayed” at comparisons to North Korea and Nazi Germany.

One woman who grew up under a right-wing dictatorship says these exaggerated comparisons hide the reality of life under extreme regimes.

And she says OBON has brought back memories of life as a child under Portugal’s totalitarian leader Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, his Estado Novo (New State) and the Mocidade Portuguesa (Portuguese Youth).

Joao Kay, of the International Education Institute at St Andrews University, was 10 when she had to join the national youth movement, which came with a uniform in the colours of the Portuguese flag and anthems similar to OBON which praised the “glorious country”, might and greatness.

READ MORE: Watch pupils sing One Britain One Nation song at Bradford primary school

Children would perform these songs and others on Nation Day every June. Those from and living in Portugal’s African colonies also had to take part.

The lyrics to the OBON song, she said, gave her “the shivers”. These include references to surviving “many storms and many wars”, celebrating differences and being “united forever”.

Kay, of Newport-on-Tay, told the Sunday National the sentiments are very similar to those espoused through the Mocidade Portuguesa. She said: “These children are being required to sing One Britain One Nation and have this ideology as we did in Portugal.

“In the 1930s, the regime saw schools as a vehicle for its ideology. Salazar realised that he couldn’t just control the press and the arts, he also had to try to inculcate his doctrines into the young so he would use the schools and made the Mocidade Portuguesa compulsory. The teachers had to co-operate.”

The Estado Novo’s motto was “Deus, patria e familia” (God, fatherland and family) and resisted decolonisation at a time when other European nations were ending or reducing their empires. Political freedoms were curtailed, dissidents repressed and only the elite were allowed access to further education.

Salazar, who backed Franco in the Spanish civil war, died in the 1970s, two years after suffering a stroke.

The regime ended in the Carnation Revolution of 1974. The armed forces deposed the government after the signal was given – one radio broadcast of the country’s official Eurovision song and another of a banned folk singer.

READ MORE: UK Government 'to tell staff to stop referring to Scotland as its own country'

Kay settled in Scotland with her Scots husband, writer Billy Kay, a few years afterwards but recalls the “extraordinary period”. She said: “We were used to living in a dictatorship. People got arrested, we lived in danger, there was a secret police, we had to be very, very careful what we said in public.

“All of a sudden we could do anything, we could go to the library and request any book, we could shop anything we liked, it was a complete transformation. People could go and vote – it was like going to a party.”

But she says critics of OBON must not confuse it with fascism: “There is nothing dictatorial about this. Fascism isn’t banal, it is a serious thing.

“All people should know about their history and where they came from, but it has to be warts and all.”