Scotland does not yet have an official anthem of its own – to date, Scottish Parliament has not considered it a political priority to select and approve one. But on most sporting events (apart from the Olympics, when the British national anthem ‘God Save the Queen’ is used) the anthem ‘Flower of Scotland’ is performed for participating Scottish teams, and has been used as the victory anthem at the Commonwealth Games since 2010, replacing ‘Scotland the Brave’.

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Who wrote and composed ‘Flower of Scotland’?

Both song and lyrics were composed as recently as the mid-1960s by Roy Williamson of the folk group the Corries (though it’s been noticed that its opening phrase bears a striking resemblance to Verdi’s Chorus of Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco. The group first performed it in 1967 for BBC television, deliberately presenting it in a quasi-archaic style with Roy Williamson on bouzouki and Ronnie Brown on bodhran (frame drum). The lyrics refer to the Scots victory, under the leadership of Robert the Bruce, over Edward II of England at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The song caught the ear of Billy Steele, winger of the Scotland rugby union team, and he encouraged his fellow players to sing it during the British Lions tour of South Africa in 1974. The song was then adopted as the pre-game anthem for the 1990 Five Nations Championship, and in 1997 the Scottish Football Association made it the official pre-game national anthem, the song having previously been used informally since 1993.

Scottish National Anthem, 'Flower of Scotland' lyrics

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Authors

daniel jaffe
Daniel JafféJournalist and Critic, BBC Music Magazine

Daniel Jaffé has been associated with BBC Music Magazine since 2004 when he was the reviews editor, working in that post until he went freelance in 2011. Previously he was on the editorial teams of Classic CD and Gramophone. He is a specialist in both Russian and 20th-century British music.