IF Scotland is serious about becoming an independent state, we need to be serious about adopting some of the key trappings of one – such as a national anthem.

People can often tell you the flag of a country, its language(s) and some of its national symbols, and in many cases – particularly if they’re a follower of spectator sports – its national anthem.

Many people don’t realise that while Flower of Scotland is used pretty much universally today as Scotland’s national anthem, the Scottish Government has not yet officially adopted it. In fact, Scotland does not have an officially recognised national anthem.

By officially adopting a national anthem, Scotland would – in a purely symbolic way – increase its legitimacy as a distinct actor from the rest of the UK. 

A critical part of shoring up the legitimacy of the independence movement both at home and internationally is to clearly build and exhibit the icons of Scotland and Scottishness and demonstrate their distinctiveness from the rest of the UK. this includes the more superficial aspects of statehood – such as a national anthem.

Some of these key facets of an independent state could be adopted now, within the devolution settlement.

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In 2004, lawyers for the Scottish Parliament advised that it was within the legal competence of the Scottish Parliament to choose a national anthem for Scotland – meaning this decision could be made unilaterally, without any of the UK interference we are becoming increasingly used to.

It’s not unusual for non-state actors such as Scotland to adopt official national anthems.

the Catalan Autonomous Community has officially adopted Els Segadors as its national anthem; the Basque Autonomous Community has Eusko Abendaren Ereserkia; Flanders has De Vlaamse Leeuw; and the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq has Ey Reqib. Why not Scotland?

I’ll indulge myself further and say the national anthem adopted should be Flower of Scotland. Personally, I don’t particularly like Flower of Scotland as a national anthem. I think the historic, radical and international connection of Burns’s Scots Wha Hae or the modern and international lyrics of Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come Aw ye would both be better.

However, both of these miss the critical point of what a national anthem is meant to be – something that brings people together.

The National: Ronnie Brown sings Flower of Scotland at Hampden ParkRonnie Brown sings Flower of Scotland at Hampden Park

The history of how Flower of Scotland became our unofficial anthem speaks for itself. Written by the famous pro-independence folk duo the Corries, it speaks to the power of what a national anthem could be but very rarely is – something that is truly organic, of the people, and genuinely popular – not something which has been chosen by a bureaucrat, written for the benefit and continuation of the existing state, and distributed from the top-down. The UK’s national anthem comes to mind.

Or better yet, let’s have an unofficial – maybe even online – poll on it. Having a discussion on what our official national anthem should be will get people talking about Scotland and its potential independence and will attract international attention once again to the question of how Scotland seeks to define itself as a nation. I’m confident the decision made would be the right one.

This is by no means the most important issue facing our society but if Scotland is to be independent state, we need to adopt some of the symbolic aspects of what it means to be an independent state. We can – and should – do this within the UK context.

I think for those reasons, Scotland officially adopting an official national anthem is a no-brainer.