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The Saltire (Scotland's flag)

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Scotland has two flags - the Saltire or St Andrew's cross (white on blue) and the Lion Rampant (yellow and red). The Lion Rampant is the Royal flag and is supposed to only be used by royalty. The Saltire is the oldest flag in Europe.

The St Andrew's Cross according to legend is that shape because the apostle Andrew petitioned the Roman authorities who had sentenced him to death not to crucify him on the same shape of cross as Christ, and this was granted.


Anyway, legend has it that the saltire flag has its origins in a battle near Athelstaneford in East Lothian, circa 832AD when Angus mac Fergus, King of the Picts, and Eochaidh of Dalriada defeated the army of Athelstane, King of Northumbria comprising Angles and Saxons.

There is a saltire flying there near the church with an explanation regarding the origin of the flag. The night before the battle, the Scots saw a cross formation of clouds in the sky resembling a St Andrew's cross - the patron Saint. They took this sign as an omen and indeed they were successful in battle the next day. Thus the colours in the flag are supposed to be white to represent the clouds and azure, the colour of the sky towards the end of the day. Sky blue is not the right colour, it is too light. The Scottish Parliament has debated this matter and decided on Pantone 300 as the recommended colour

If you want this colour on your PC, the RGB Value on the colour sliders for Pantone 300 should be 0, 132, 202. The web value for fill colours should be "#0084CA".

The saltire was later incorporated in the union flag and union jack although the colour of blue there is different. In those flags it is navy blue which is used. The union jack is the version of the union flag used on the jack staff at the front of a ship. This difference of colour between the saltire and the union flags has resulted in some confusion over the correct colour of the Scottish flag - so insist the you get one which is azure and white and not anything else!

William the Lyon who adopted the Lion Rampant (in 1165) to replace the previous symbol of Scots Sovereignty, which was a Boar. This has led to some humorous speculation as to what the present title of the Lord Lyon King of Arms might be had the change not been adopted. Further, it was a heraldic symbol (or a Lyon rampant gules) far before the charge of the Earl of Galloway. I forget what bloodline used the charge just now, but I know that it predated the adoption of the Saltire in the 9th century. I've got the reference somewhere and I'll have a look about for it. The most modern change to the standard occurred in 1165 with the addition of the gules bordure tressure fleury-counterfleury, which is entirely distinctive and to my knowledge not emblazoned on any other arms anywhere.


Reputable places to buy flags include:

James Stevenson Flags Ltd
75 Westmoreland Street
G42 8LH
Tel: 0141 423 5757

James Stevenson Flags Ltd
16 Millgate
Cupar, Fife

The Scottish National Party
Gordon Lamb House
3 Jackson's Entry
Tel: 0800 633 5432 (on-line shop)

Scots Independent,
51 Cowane Street,
Tel: 01786 473523

Please state size (length) required - from half a yard to 5 yards.

Use of Saltire and Union Flag

It is the case of course that it is NOT permissible for the ordinary citizen of the UK either Scottish, English, Welsh or Irish to fly the Union Flag. It is only permissible for Government offices, Royal Navy ships on their foretop and certain other military uses (and recently certain royal dwellings in the absence of the monarch). It is the flag of the Union only. The common citizens should be flying their own national flags - the crosses of St George, St Andrew, St Patrick and of Cornwall and the dragon of Wales, unless they are on board ship when these flags may be flown on the foretop but the red ensign is mandatory. Scots should not even be flying the lion rampant which is the sign reserved to the monarch of Scotland.

The question is as to what flag should fly in front of the Parliament of Scotland, the Assembly of Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly and over the buildings housing the official administrations of these. This should be a matter for each body to chose for itself (for instance the Scots should have the right to change their saltire or its background to pink if they so wish).

Further information

There is a Heritage centre at Athelstaneford and it is open daily between 10am and 5pm from April to September. Admission is free.

The Scottish Flag Trust, PO Box 84, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Q-HTML V3.4 by Craig Cockburn created this page on 19-Jun-2012 at 08:06:24