A Tale of Two Flags

I feel proud of my flag.

Do you?

I hear the unspoken words forming on your lips.

“So which flag do you feel proud of?”

It is almost a silent ultimatum. Which side of the debate do you fall under? It seems to have become an “either/or” but not “both” scenario.

Well, let me nail my colours to the mast.

Like all of us at ODN, I consider myself British and Scottish and am proud of both my heritages. I consider them both to be rich, colourful and unique and can strongly identify with both. Why would I consider ditching half of what I am? What could possibly compensate me for this loss? I can see no conflict in this combination of my national identities

Unfortunately the two flags – the Union Flag and the Saltire – have become a focus for political division.

Perhaps I should not be surprised by this coming from the West Coast of Scotland. Sectarianism there has always meant that unfortunately flying the Union Flag in that part of the United Kingdom is more than just a statement of British pride. It carries the stigma of centuries old religious rivalry. Misappropriation of the flag is not a new phenomenon.

However it is concerning when each of the two flags representing Scotland, albeit in different ways, are now more and more being seen as antagonists rather than friends.

Prior to the Jubilee and Olympic Torch celebrations, many I spoke to were wary of flying the Union Flag, even though they wanted to, in case it was seen, at best, as being un-Scottish or, at worst, was the focus of actual hostility.

The Union Flag was seen as statement of Britishness to the exclusion of Scottishness.

One of our supporters however proudly displayed both flags outside his house in Edinburgh and was encouraged by how many of his neighbours endorsed his action. However they did not follow his example by flying their own flags.

Have we become “closet” Brits in Scotland?

In the same way the Saltire has been appropriated by the Nationalist cause as a symbol looking forward to an independent Scotland.

This is not acceptable. We should not be forced to choose between our national flags. Both are appropriate in the correct context.

There have been examples where the two flags of Scotland have been put in conflict.

I do not want to dwell on the “ins” and “outs” of men in black handing out Saltires to the crowd, seen on the arrival of the Olympic Torch in Edinburgh. Much has already been made of this in the press. But safe to say, I question the motives behind it, as I suspect this was making a political statement rather than simply celebrating its arrival in a uniquely Scottish way. Despite this, and appropriately, the Union Flag was still much in evidence in Edinburgh on that occasion and indeed has been throughout Scotland during both the Torch Relay and the Jubilee. To many Scots we are still a United Kingdom.

Additionally, I do not want to dwell on the arguments that raged over which flags were appropriate to be flown over Hampden, when it becomes an Olympic venue in a few weeks’ time. I do not think the issue should ever have become the subject of political interference even in a devolved administration within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Again it made the flags rivals rather than partners.

I also do not want to dwell on images of the Union Flag being burned in Scotland, now being circulated on the net. Disturbing as those images are, they represent minority views that will never be reconciled to the mainstream.

What I do want to see, however, are both the Union Flag and the Saltire flying proudly over Glasgow in two years’ time at the Commonwealth Games as it celebrates this British and Scottish event.

I want to make this point as forcibly as I can.

The Union Flag and the Saltire are not rivals. They are partners. They should be flying in partnership all around Scotland where appropriate – even now –neither excluding the other although at times it will be appropriate to fly each of them singly without the other.

Both are flags of Scotland.

We cannot allow this Independence debate to polarise us round our two flags. We should be proud to fly both. I would encourage you to rally around both proudly – to display both – or if appropriate the one that matches the occasion.

The Saltire can and should be flown by those who support the Union equally as proudly as it is currently being displayed by those who support Independence.

Let’s capture our flag back and stop it being a symbol simply for those supporting separation. It should never have become that.

I am British and Scottish. That is my unique heritage.

I also have two flags that represent my country and I count that an honour and a privilege.

Fly the flags!!!