THE spectacle of smug-faced junior Tory ministers, urging the BBC to play the UK national anthem every evening before News 24 comes on, is of course excruciatingly painful. But remembering the times when it actually did happen at least releases a decent flood of memories.

For TV-era families like ours, the late night performance of God Save The Queen signified that our daily mass hypnosis was at an end (though with the test card then appearing on screen, not the weirdness). I remember watching the original Planet Of The Apes till after 12pm, ending with Charlton Heston railing at a broken Statue of Liberty. I fancied that the wobbly tune which followed was a Pythonesque commentary on the vanity of nations.

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I also smile to recall an instrumental version of God Save The Queen sailing out of my late Mum’s bedside radio, well past midnight. She’d become a total devotee to Radio Four – especially its late-evening poetry shows – but only switched off after the anthem had been fully performed. Doubtless to consternate her republican progeny, grinding their teeth downstairs.

Memory totalises things too much sometimes, gilds the lily. I read with some surprise on Wikipedia that BBC2 and Channel Four had (and have) never played God Save The Queen, along with Thames and some Northern ITV stations. I also fondly imagine I once watched the Sex Pistols denounce “her fascist regime” on TV in 1977. However, the historians tell me the single and its video was banned across all media channels.

(On the Pistols’ version, here’s an intriguing detail. The backwoods Tory MP who asked for God Save The Queen’s restoration this week, Andrew Rosindell, has form on this question. However, the last time he made the request, on November 3, 2016, that evening’s Newsnight concluded with Kirsty Wark saying they were “incredibly happy to oblige”. Cue footage of the Pistols live on stage, spitting their way through their classic. Not imaginable behaviour from the Beeb, these days...)

I have luckily managed to avoid too many public occasions where the hall rises to honour the national anthem. On a few occasions I’ve been trapped but seen it coming. So I’ve either answered a sudden urgent call to nature or stayed seated like the teenage anti-monarchist I am. Rock ‘n’ roll deafness has protected me from the hissed comments made by the more florid at the table.

However, even my mild research has revealed that I now have an alternative strategy: I should substitute the lyrics for something a bit less cravenly reverential. Quite the best option is a 1794 version, written by the American republican and French citizen Joel Barlow. Try it out!

God save the Guillotine

Till England’s King and Queen

Her power shall prove:

Till each appointed knob

Affords a clipping job

Let no vile halter rob

The Guillotine…

Bit on the nose? As even the dogs in the street know, the second verse of the official God Save The Queen lyric hardly demurs from elite resistance to republican sentiment:

O Lord our God arise,

Scatter her enemies,

And make them fall:

Confound their politics,

Frustrate their knavish tricks,

On Thee our hopes we fix:

God save us all.

There’s a nose-wrinkling verse from the October 1745 edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine, which takes a somewhat partisan line on Jacobite politics of the era:

Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,

May by thy mighty aid,

Victory bring.

May he sedition hush,

and like a torrent rush,

Rebellious Scots to crush,

God save the King.

So yes, I am (and will remain) part of the population on these islands who feel literally oppressed whenever we hear the opening strains of this dreadful, passivity-inducing, elite-worshipping dirge.

The definitive writer on the world’s national anthems, Alex Marshall, hates God Save The Queen. “It just has absolutely nothing about Britain today,” he said in an interview with The Atlantic. “Most anthems are at least meant to say something about your character. At the very least, they’re meant to say your hills look nice.”

Marshall notes – as I have previously in these pages – that William Blake and Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem (increasingly sung at events with a strong English context) is much preferable, full of hope and vision. “I will not cease from Mental Fight,/Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:/Till we have built Jerusalem/In England’s green & pleasant Land”.

Wow. Beat that. (I always hear Bob Marley echoing these lines: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery/None but ourselves can free our minds”). I remain jealous of the opportunities that Scots indy will bring for Jerusalem, as the English national anthem. Particularly in comparison with the ragbag of kitsch available to Scotland.

READ MORE: Tory MP doubles down on 'God Save the Queen' call in row with Kate Garraway

Bring me my shining separate currency plan, bring me my realistic EU-Brexit Scottish border controls, of course. The establishment of a decent and enduring Scottish national anthem is way down the to-do list. But the proposed stuffing of God Save The Queen down our throats at the end of each day has, at least, the virtue of clarifying what kind of anthem you might desire.

You’d think it would have to be about people power – and human emancipation. The sheer idiocy of a national anthem that’s just so, so happy about the longevity of hereditary monarchy … admittedly, this is the lowest of bars.

And again, Blake’s Jerusalem has the edge. Imagine having a song where the verdant, joyous utopia of its title is explicitly set against filthy industrial capitalism, those “dark Satanic mills”?

Does Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come A’ Ye quite compete? I love it, always have. And in an increasingly “woke” world, where the planetary and human debts owed by the imperial West are becoming explicit, the Freedom’s anti-colonial and anti-militarist sentiments may qualify it for the ragbag. It’s an amazingly far-sighted lyric, a real testament to the Scottish left (though its melody is always a little fiendish to sing).

However, I will admit to needing greater self-assertion and collective aspiration in a Scottish national anthem. In this, I don’t think we’re well served by Flower of Scotland.

Does this mean we’ll be singing forever about the heathery glory of pre-modern wars, sending “the English” “home again”, looking forward to being “a nation again” – even as we pound the corridors of Brussels or New York, pursuing complex strategic goals? Will that actually help matters?

To be fair, it’s not as if national anthemry in general isn’t a boiling pot of primitive cliché. Reading Marshall’s book on anthems (Republic or Bust!), the regular invocations of “motherland” and “fatherland” from continent to continent would give you the heebie-jeebies.

It's a tricky one. Maybe we do need something brand new – a Blake-level lyric, enlivened by a melody for the ages. In the meantime, sentimentally (and mostly as a result of the young singer Rianne Downey’s Twitter performance) I have been imagining Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia as a contender.

It would certainly be functional. Caledonia is the ultimate siren call to the global Scottish diaspora – or at least the chorus is. To me, it’s a bonus that the verses are troubled, querulous, emotionally mature: “I have moved and I’ve kept on moving/Proved the points that I needed proving/Lost the friends that I needed losing/Found others on the way”.

But maybe it’s just one to put in the ragbag – and perhaps a repertoire of context-appropriate national anthems is the way to go.

Finally, a respectful suggestion to the Honourable Members for Romford and Croydon South. If their aim for the nightly TV blaring of GSOQ is that it restores “unity and pride in our nation”, the consequences may be ... not as anticipated.