Stirling Council are to debate removing the Saltire from the Council headquarters in favour of the Union Flag. A writer, Mark Smith, writes in the Herald today about how much the Saltire makes him cringe. Mark talks about his view of the Union Flag, the merged colours, flying at the Proms and the Olympics, and hates how it has been mis-used in Irish Politics.
You won’t be surprised that I disagree with both Mark and Stirling Council. For as long as I can remember the Union flag has gotten on my nerves. As a youngster I used to get really confused that it was flown for everything English, it was the English flag. In school you were told it was the British flag but every time England celebrated something there it was. You were basically told to worship at the altar of the Union flag. I don’t think I knew what a Saltire was until I was in my teens, but that is hardly a surprise given I was taught virtually no Scottish history at school, but an awful lot of English history. The Scottish history I was taught appeared to centre around getting our arse kicked from the English. Now please don’t think this an anti-English rant, it is not, my experiences are my experiences and I can’t change them.
However, as I learned more about my country, and about the United Kingdom, the more I came to hate the Union Flag. This flag is used not as a way to bring us closer together but to remind us of how small we are. It has become a symbol of privilege to some and a weapon to shame us to others. During the jubilee and the London Olympics you were somehow unpatriotic if you didn’t wave one, that was fine with me as I was interested in neither. On the news during the riots those that rioted were accused of bringing shame on the flag, Mark Smith says in his article that it should not just be associated with negative things like empire building, warmongering etc. Well Mark I’m sorry but that is exactly what it is. Mark, think about about when it is flown, at Jubilees, at Londons Olympics, when the the UK rides to war, at the Tory party Conference, at Thatchers funeral, the Unionist riots in Belfast and by the BNP and the EDL. It is a flag dominated by the St.George Cross, a flag that has been used over the last 300 years to promote the dominance of the English. An empire that brought misery to millions, and continues to do so even today as countries freed from its tyrany have struggled to find their own peace and democracy, and maybe they don’t know who they are because of it what it stands for.
The Union Flag flies centre pole in Dundee City and the Saltire to the left and lower down. That says it all really about what we are to the state, now I appreciate there are stupid rules about when and how it should be flown and all that guff, but to myself it is about who we are and who some of us want to be. Mark Smith is entitled to his opinion, and I will defend that, he is entitled to feel more British than Scottish and to support the Union but Mark needs to remember that for the very reasons that he wants to fly the Union flag there are many who will never accept it.
I don’t accept it because I am some knuckle dragging Scottish patriot who hates everything that is not Scottish. I don’t accept it because I am some small-minded fool who dreams of heather and porridge for all. My two oldest children are half American/Japanese and my youngest son has dual nationality and is half Ghanaian.
No the reasons I will never ever wave the Union Flag or even stand for the national anthem is how it makes me feel. The Union flag makes me feel small, it makes me feel ashamed of being told I am British, it makes me feel that there are us and there are them, and it stands up for the privilege in this country that I can’t accept from the unelected Royal family, the fake titles, to people who have rule over us and don’t deserve the privilege.
The Saltire, that Mark says in his article has been hijacked by the nationalists and makes him cringe, that ‘ represents a narrowing of perspective, a separation, a reduction of identity from a large friendly group of nations to a single small one‘ for me has become a symbol of hope. It’s not just a symbol for 90 minutes at Hampden or abroad anymore. It’s not even a symbol of our history for me, no, the Saltire is a symbol of what we can become in the world and how we can interact in it. Next years vote is not about money or power on the world stage, next year it is about democracy, is about taking our place in the world, it’s about a better future and it’s about saying there is a different way, a better way.
Not only will a YES vote be liberating for Scotland, it will be liberating for England, Wales and Northern Ireland too. It will allow our neighbours and friends to think about their place in the world and their destiny, what they want to be. The Union Flag should be put away in a museum now, not to be totally forgotten, but as a symbol of the past, and while it saw some great achievements and advances in science, engineering etc that were made in its time, it’s mostly a symbol of tyranny and oppression around the world in my opinion, it’s a symbol of privilege and of royalty. It’s not my flag and never will be, so to Stirling Council and Mark Smith of the herald I say you are wrong.