Scotland’s Saltire Under Threat from "Rainbow Flag"

The Christian symbol on Scotland's national flag has come under fire from the Scottish Socialist Party which is calling for a new "rainbow" flag.

Published 23 January 2006  |  
|TOP|Members of the Scottish Parliament are being asked to consider replacing the Saltire as Scotland’s national flag because its “Christian symbolism” does not relate to large sections of the population, the Scottish Sunday Times reported.

The Scottish Parliament has been presented with a motion asking the MSPs to approve the proposal of the Scottish Socialist Party to introduce a new “rainbow” flag which they believe better represents the cultural and ethnic diversity of Scotland.

The Saltire, which bears the cross of St. Andrew – the patron saint of Scotland and one of Christ’s disciples – is a dated relic, says Colin Fox, leader of the Scottish Socialist party.

Mr Fox asserted that a secular country like Scotland which is home to people belonging to many different religions should not have a Christian symbol as its national emblem.

|QUOTE|The Saltire is one of the oldest flags in the world, having been used since 832AD, when St Andrew is said to have appeared in a vision to Angus MacFergus, the Pictish king, on the eve of the Battle of Athelstaneford against the Northumbrians. Legend has it a white cross formed from clouds appeared in the sky.

Mr Fox said the flag was an “anachronism” and that it is time for it to go, despite orders from Scotland’s first minister, Jack McConnell, last year to fly the Saltire in every public building.

The leader of the SSP said: “Who was St Andrew? He was someone who never came here, so his connection to Scotland is tenuous to say the least. I’d like the Scotland of today to reflect the many different cultures here.

“Scotland now has a considerable Asian population and a small and important Chinese community, as well as Irish people. A flag that is blue does not convey the impression of a multitude of backgrounds and interests,” he said.

|AD|Mr Fox proposes the introduction of a flag similar to the multicoloured flag adopted by South Africa after the end of apartheid in the country, a proposal that has the support of the Humanist Society of Scotland.

Ron McLaren, spokesman for the Society, said: “The relationship of St Andrew to Scotland is mythical. If we were going to redesign the flag, I would like it to incorporate the symbol of Europe, to indicate our wish to take a full part in its affairs.”

The proposal has sparked anger, however, with the chairman of the Saltire Society, Ian Scott, describing Mr Fox’s suggestion as “absolute nonsense”.

“The Saltire has a long association with Scotland and is part of our history. It is the most obvious symbol of Scotland,” he said.

“I am appalled by any suggestion it should be downgraded or scrapped. The idea that Scotland should pretend that it hasn’t got a long Christian heritage is ludicrous.”

Bev Mayer, treasurer of the Perthshire branch of the Tartan Army, said: “We have a real emotional attachment to the Saltire. It is the internationally recognised symbol for Scotland and we’re very proud of it."

Ayub Khan, chairman of the Multi-Faith Coalition, which represents young Muslims, said he was proud to wear the Saltire. “Whenever I change my car I stick the Saltire badge on the back. I also wear the Saltire on my T-shirt when I go to Pakistan. “I have two identities, my first is as a Muslim, and my second as a Scot. I’m proud of the Saltire and don’t think it should be changed.”

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