by Rab Bruce’s spider

Perhaps it is the fact that fans are now back in football stadiums, but I’ve actually quite enjoyed listening to the various national anthems being played before the Euro 2020 matches. Normally I’d ignore them, but it’s been a treat to listen to the passion and fervour as fans have joined in the singing.

As for the anthems themselves, one or two are worthy of special comment. For example, the rendition of the Danish anthem before their match with Belgium was so packed with emotion it was enough to bring a tear to the eye of anyone except the most ardent Tory.

Then there is the Spanish anthem which famously has no lyrics, yet their fans did add some vocal accompaniment when the anthem was played. Whether they have made up their own lyrics or were simply singing the Spanish equivalent of "La la la", I don’t know. It was just great to hear them belting it out.

And there is the Polish national anthem which, according to some accounts I’ve read, sings more about Lithuania than Poland – surely unique among national anthems which generally focus on pride in the nation.

Speaking of national pride, Scotland’s anthem, "Flower of Scotland" often comes in for criticism for being something of a dirge. However, the fact that the tune is easy to sing, and the words memorable were the features that first made the song so popular. And if you listen to an original rendition by The Corries, it’s far from a dirge. Allowing public participation seems to have slowed the tempo somewhat. But, despite calls for an alternative to be found, this song stirs the blood and is very popular among football fans.

Naturally, in these days of rampant British nationalism, even Scotland’s anthem has been targeted, with some claims that it is anti-English and therefore singing it could be construed as a hate crime. This is taking things to extreme silliness because, as mentioned above, national anthems are intended to promote pride in a nation, and Flower of Scotland celebrates one of the most significant events in our history. Those who claim it is anti-English should perhaps ask why the English king is even mentioned. He was, after all, leading a military invasion of Scotland which can’t really be construed as anything other than anti-Scottish. Perhaps it is just that British nationalists don’t like being reminded of our history.

But in all this talk of national anthems there is one which deserves special mention for its approach to stimulating national pride. It is, of course, the English national anthem which, for some reason those who insist the UK is a union of equals cannot explain, also doubles as the anthem of the UK. What is special about this mournful dirge is that, unlike songs commemorating proud national history, or invoking love of one’s homeland, it instead celebrates the people’s subservience to an unelected head of state. Yes, they actually take pride in being regarded as second-class citizens. In fact, they don’t even warrant the title of citizens, and are proud to be servile subjects. I can only say this is a bizarre way to mark national pride, but each to his or her own.

There is one other fairly unique feature about GSTQ. I’ve noticed that the anthems of each country are generally being treated with respect by opposing fans. You can be sure, however, that the Tartan Army will boo when GSTQ is played. This is as certain as the fact that English commentators will mention 1966 and Gazza’s 1996 goal every few minutes during the match. Such scorn of another nation’s anthem will no doubt stir up bafflement, resentment and anger among English media commentators, but as I mentioned above it is a significant feature of the UK that the English anthem is deemed to also be the UK anthem. The negative reaction from the Tartan Army is indicative of the resentment felt towards colonial overlordship. Sadly, I don’t expect many people in England to even attempt to understand that. They will see it simply as more evidence of anti-English sentiment among Scots. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is anything we can do to alter that thinking.

Still, that’s more than enough havering about anthems. It’s time to get stoked up for the match.