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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 03:06 GMT
Citizenship anthem doubt emerges
The national anthem may be dropped from some of the government's flagship British citizenship ceremonies.

Even though all applicants will in future have to pass a "Britishness" test, they may not have to sing what has become a symbol of Great Britain over the past 250 years.

Those living in Scotland and Wales will probably get the chance to sing anthems appropriate to their home locations.

But a Home Office spokesman admitted it could be instead of the national anthem.

The spokesman said the precise format of citizenship ceremonies, which begin in the London borough of Brent on Thursday, is still being decided.

The wording of the content of the ceremonies - which include an oath and pledge of allegiance - will evolve over the coming months.

Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said in December it was "only right... that our national flag and national anthem should be part of this important day".

'Distinct identities'

But her department spokesman admitted: "We have said all along that it is important to recognise local differences. The thinking at the moment is two anthems, but that is something we need to be flexible about.

"At the end of the day, Wales and Scotland have their own distinct identities. Whether [their respective anthems are sung] instead of the national anthem is still to be finalised and will depend on the needs of the community.

I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms.
I will uphold its democratic values.
I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.

"Some will say they want both, but we need to be attuned to what the wider community wants as well."

Some councillors in Scotland have already voiced concern at the prospect of including the national anthem, which they describe as offensive to Scots, and flying the union flag, which they say has sectarian connotations in some areas.

And the Northern Ireland Office says the national anthem will be played - but not necessarily sung - at its ceremonies, which will be held at Hillsborough Castle.

Brent says the national anthem will feature at its first ceremony, but it will not be forcing people to join in. It says the guidance from the Home Office recommended its inclusion but said it was not compulsory.

Ironically, those taking part in its groundbreaking occasion will not have taken the new "Britishness" test - the Home Office says the content and standards required have not yet been finalised.

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