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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 10:16 GMT
Official fisticuffs over Scots anthem
Saltire
There was less concern over flying only the Saltire
An official sparring match erupted 30 years ago over a request by Scottish boxers to play Scotland the Brave and fly the Saltire at sporting events, it has emerged.

Official government papers just released show that the stance of Scots boxers in Czechoslovakia led to a lengthy debate between civil servants.

The Scottish Amateur Boxing team threatened to walk out of an event in the Czech capital Prague in 1969 over the use of the Union Flag and the UK National Anthem, God Save the Queen.

The team wanted the Saltire flag to be flown during bouts and to stand to Scotland The Brave, if and when they triumphed.

In this instance we agreed to the use of the St Andrew's Cross; as only the anthems of winners are played at such events, it so happened that the matter of the anthem did not arise

Foreign Office document
The protest led to concern among officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) but a proposal to play both songs, one after another was opposed by Scottish government officials.

The team was defeated but British Embassy officials had agreed to the use of the Scottish flag to avoid a diplomatic incident.

FCO documents stated: "In this instance we agreed to the use of the St Andrew's Cross; as only the anthems of winners are played at such events, it so happened that the matter of the anthem did not arise.

"But the particularly unsatisfactory feature was that the Scottish officials threatened to make a fuss and go home if they did not get their own way."

It was not deemed "unreasonable" for a home nation such as Scotland to fly its own flag, but the FCO officials were concerned at an apparent snub to the National Anthem.

"National Anthems are possibly a different matter," said an FCO letter to colleagues at the Scottish education department.

"We are not sure whether Scotland The Brave is a National Anthem of Scotland or merely a national song, and if the latter, whether it would be proper for it to be used instead of God Save The Queen."

'Separate identity'

In an internal memo which considered the Foreign Office view, the Scottish home and health department said: "...if it is proper for a team representing Scotland, as distinct from Great Britain or the United Kingdom to take part at such events, it follows logically that victory in a particular event should be celebrated by the running up a distinctively Scottish flag i.e. the Saltire, and by the playing of a distinctively Scottish tune."

They conceded that Scotland The Brave was not a national anthem, but "surely it is not a consideration if the sponsors of an event have chosen to invite a Scottish, as distinct from a British side to participate".

Scottish officials cited the Commonwealth Games as a precedent and described the Foreign Office stance as "inconsistent and confusing".

An official wrote: "I think we should tell them that if a foreign country sees fit to invite a Scottish team to a sporting event, its separate identity should be given proper recognition by the playing of a distinctively Scottish tune."

Foreign Office officials were not convinced by proposals they described as "not altogether tidy", and suggested a formula but this forced Scottish officials to put their foot down

This formula would allow triumphant teams to play both songs, one after another.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office seem to be making extraordinarily heavy weather of this

Scottish official
Five months after the matter was raised by the Foreign Office, a Scottish education department circular disagreed and stated: "The formula seems a very sound one in principle but it may not be a great deal of help in practice.

"If they are allowed to have two songs there should be no difficulty, but it seems unlikely that the organisers of the event would allow each of the four UK teams two songs or that the other teams would not object of they did.

"I can't really see that it matters very much what a respective Scottish (or English, or Welsh or Northern Irish) teams opts for, nor can I see that its a matter about which our respective departments need concern themselves greatly".

This exchange of views prompted a Scottish home and health department official to write to his colleague: "Thank you for sending me a copy of the latest exchanges on the subject.

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office seem to be making extraordinarily heavy weather of this.

"As you said in an earlier letter, if the organisers of a particular event require the playing of National Anthems, a Scottish team must abide by the rules and put up with God Save The Queen.

"But they should be entitled to opt for an identifiable Scottish song if the rules of the competition are sufficiently flexible to allow this."

The following year advice was sought by the Foreign Office on the new protocol.

The Scottish home and health department informed them that the Saltire and Scotland The Brave could be used by the Scottish team competing at the Silver Broom Curling Championship in Canada, unless competition rules required the playing of the National Anthem.

See also:

08 Oct 02 | Scotland
20 May 02 | Scotland
19 Feb 02 | Scotland
07 Feb 02 | Wales
11 Jan 02 | Politics
22 Nov 99 | Entertainment
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