AMID a barrage of balloons and waving saltires it was decided.

Flower Of Scotland beat off stiff competition last night to be voted the people's choice for the Scottish national anthem.

More than 4000 votes were cast for the song in an online poll organised by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) which gave people the chance to listen to versions of the top five contenders recorded live at Edinburgh's Usher Hall last month.

The ballad, written more than 30 years ago by the late Roy Williamson of Scottish folk duo The Corries and commemorating the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, trounced its rivals with more than 40per cent of the overall vote.

Second place went to Scotland The Brave, which polled 29per cent of the vote, followed by 16per cent for Highland Cathedral and 7per cent for Robert Burns's celebration of common humanity, A Man's A Man For A' That. SNP conference favourite Scots Wha Hae was the least popular of the contenders, taking just 6per cent.

The results were announced yesterday by actor Gerard Kelly during the Last Night Of The RSNO Scottish Power Proms at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Despite an impromptu audience vote choosing Scotland The Brave as the favourite, news of the winner was greeted with cheers and applause.

RSNO chief executive Simon Woods told the Sunday Herald he was "thrilled" by the response to the poll. "We're Scotland's national orchestra, so it's entirely appropriate that we should play a role in this national debate, " he said. "These are all wonderful songs with great music, and that's what we should be about as a symphony orchestra.

"What happens next is entirely in the hands of the Scottish Executive. We've passed the message to them and it will be interesting to see how they react."

The vote was the first of its kind in the long-running argument over whether Scotland needs its own anthem. Despite the popularity of Flower Of Scotland, the official anthem for Scottish state or civic receptions is still God Save The Queen.

Questions were raised again following the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in March, where successful Scottish athletes collected their medals to the strains of Scotland The Brave. First Minister Jack McConnell subsequently called for a nationwide debate to choose a definitive anthem. But a move to initiate proceedings by the SNP culture spokesman Michael Matheson MSP was rejected by Holyrood's enterprise committee, with the view that the decision should be left to the public.

Matheson said last night's result would lend fresh momentum for progress at a political level. "We're now in a position where the majority of people in Scotland believe that we should have a designated song to be used for civic and sporting events, " he said.

"It's important that we have a debate which allows us to arrive at a decision and the RSNO have done a lot to assist in that process."

Of the 60,000 people who listened to the songs on the orchestra's website, the majority were from the UK, with a significant number also logging on from the US and Canada. Listeners from Mongolia, New Caledonia and Christmas Island were also represented. While the result doesn't constitute a binding vote, it will be taken by Scottish politicians as a gauge of public feeling. However, some have already widened the debate by lending support to songs not represented on the shortlist.

Chris Ballance MSP, arts and culture spokesman for the Scottish Green party, yesterday backed calls for a politically endorsed anthem. "It's difficult to find a song that attracts general approval, " he said. "I think it would be easiest to endorse Auld Lang Syne because it's already used as a ceremonial song. Most importantly, it's associated with Scotland and has a good knees-up at the end."


THE FACTS Flower Of Scotland was voted the people's choice for the Scottish national anthem last night.

BACKGROUND More than 10,000 people voted in an online poll organised by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra to decide on a suitable song. The nominees were Burns's A Man's A Man;

The Corries' Flower Of Scotland; Burns's Scots Wah Hae; Ben Kelly's Highland Cathedral; and Cliff Hanley's Scotland The Brave NEED TO KNOW MORE?

www. rsno. org. uk The RSNO website