WHEN I was a schoolboy in Scotland in the 1970s, I learned a very painful lesson about national anthems.

I refused to sing God Save the Queen and was caned by a teacher. Ever since then, I have been deeply suspicious about national anthems and the messages they deliver. And I don’t like Flower of Scotland.

Yes, I’ve sung it – at stadiums in several countries – but I’ve never felt comfortable with the song. Scotland can do better.

Most countries are stuck with the bad anthems they have but Scotland has an opportunity – we don’t have an official anthem so we still have time to make the right choice. We need to pick an anthem that celebrates the future, not the past.

And one that defines Scottish identity as more than just the need to beat the English.

READ MORE: Why Flower of Scotland should be our official national anthem

Given the violent history of the British Empire, it’s actually extraordinary that so few nations have adopted anti-English anthems. The Irish and US are among the rare exceptions.

Countries such as India, Kenya and Jamaica preferred to take the high road of hope over settling scores with their brutal imperial overlord. Instead of refighting old battles, their anthems talk of blessings, peace, wisdom, love and liberty.

However, Scotland can’t seem to resist the temptation to occupy the moral low ground.

Scotland is a small country but one with an extraordinary history of influencing the world through contributions from writers, scientists, economists, political thinkers, inventors and industrialists. There’s much for a proud nation to honour.

And yet we choose to sing about the last time we gave the English a really good thrashing. And we have to reach back more than 700 years to find that moment.

The National:

The problem is that Flower of Scotland has made it very difficult to have a debate because instead of discussing the merits of the song, any suggestion it’s not a worthy anthem is turned into a discussion about what other song we should have.

To argue that we have to adopt it because it’s the song everyone sings isn’t actually an argument. We need to take it off the table and think instead about the message.

National anthems excite nasty passions. Which is why I paid a painful price for refusing to sing God Save the Queen. It’s why the Scottish FA had to apologise after a football match between Scotland and Liechtenstein at Hampden in 2010. The Scottish fans booed their opponents’ national anthem.

Why? Because Liechtenstein’s anthem shares the same tune as Britain’s, which the Hampden fans presumably didn’t realise.

We don’t need a song that makes other people angry. We need one that everyone likes and respects.

Maybe a new song. Many countries held competitions to choose their anthems.

We don’t have to be limited to existing songs. We don’t even have to have lyrics. Several nations, including Spain, have wordless anthems. But if people want words, let’s make them reflective of a 21st-century nation that celebrates its inclusiveness and diversity.

And if we have to pick an existing song, pick one everyone can sing along to. How about a verse from The Parting Glass or even Auld Lang Syne?

We wouldn’t even be the first country to pick that tune. The music was used by Korea as its anthem until after the Second World War.

We could have the only national anthem in the world that everyone wants to sing along with. Imagine that – a football game against England where the entire stadium sings Scotland’s anthem.

And don’t worry. You could still sing Flower of Scotland at Murrayfield and Hampden in the same way that Irish fans sing The Fields of Athenry. We just need a better song for our nation.

David Pate is a writer, journalist and broadcaster originally from Glasgow and now living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is the creator and host of the podcast National Anthems: The Worst Songs in the World