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Scotland (United Kingdom)

Last modified: 2014-10-11 by rob raeside
Keywords: scotland | saltire | cross: saint andrew | saint andrew |
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[Flag of Scotland] 2:3 (also used in other dimensions); image by Antůnio Martins-TuvŠlkin, 30 May 2006


See also:

Scottish districts and municipalities

* The asterisk indicates the flag is listed in the UK Flag Registry and can be flown without special planning permission.

Flags from Scotland's history

Political Party flags

Other Scottish Flags

Other sites


Origin and History of the Flag

The Saint Andrew cross is one of the oldest national flags of all, dating back at least to the 12th century, although the honour of the oldest flag among the modern nations generally falls to the flag of Denmark.
Stuart Notholt

(Notes taken from Graham Bartram's presentation on this topic at the ICV 19 in York.)

The Saint Andrew's cross.
Who was Saint Andrew? Andrew was one of Christ's disciples and legend has it he was active in Scythia, and crucified on a cross with diagonal beams. His remains were preserved, and (again by legend) Constantine wanted to remove them to Constantinople. A Greek monk was warned by an angel of this intent, and instructed to take them to the ends of the Earth. This he did, until he was shipwrecked in Scotland. Some of Andrew's relics were known to have been brought to St. Andrews, Scotland, by the Bishop of Hexham in 733 AD (Hexham Abbey is also dedicated to St. Andrew). In 1160 AD, St. Andrews Cathedral was erected, and the saint's relics were kept there until the cathedral was destroyed during the Reformation.

The earliest record to the Saint Andrew's cross flag dates from 1165 AD, where reference is made to a 9th Century battle. This was known in the 16th Century, although no record of the original source remains today.

Significant chronology of the flag includes:

  • 1180: The oldest extant record of the St. Andrews cross flag is on a seal in St. Andrews, where it is used as a religious, not a national, emblem (as shown at http://www.saltiresociety.org.uk/name.htm)
  • 1286: the St. Andrews cross was first known to be a national emblem of Scotland (the seal of the guardians of Scotland: http://www.nas.gov.uk/about/051124.asp).
  • 1385: every Scots soldier used a saltire on his uniform (often used on black, not blue - the background colour seems to have been of less importance)
  • 1388: the Standard of the Earl of Douglas used a St. Andrews cross and a lion
  • 1503: the first certain use of a plain St. Andrew's Cross flag - but the field was red, not blue (the Vienna Book of Hours).
  • 1512: the Lord High Treasurer's accounts mention the use of blue bunting.
  • 1542: the first certain illustration of the St. Andrew's Cross on a blue field as we have it today (armorial of Sir David Lindsay).
  • Reign of James IV: flagship Great Michael flew a flag with the St. Andrews cross and on the fly a red lion on yellow
  • 1588: Scottish ship illustrated flying three saltires
  • 1606: James VI (Scotland)/James I (England) combined the Scottish and English flags into the union flag of Great Britain
  • 1707: Queen Anne continued using James VI/I's design. A Scottish version is also known, with the saltire over the St. George's cross
  • 1801: the modern union flag introduced.
  • 1970's: the Scottish saltire became much more prominently used in Scotland
  • 1 July 1999: the union flag and the saltire were both used at the opening of the Scottish Parliament. Normally, though, only the Scottish saltire is flown.
Graham Bartram, 15 August 2001; chronology augmented by Kenneth Campbell Fraser, 23 November 1998

Based on the chronology above, It would be better to say that the flag dated from the 16th Century.
Kenneth Campbell Fraser, 23 November 1998

Here's some additional information on the early St Andrew's cross from Perrin:

1385: The ordinances for its use on soldier's uniforms read: 'Item every man French and Scots shall have a sign before and behind, namely a white St Andrew's Cross, and if his jack is white or his coat white he shall bear the said white cross in a piece of black cloth round or square'.
Two quotes from the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland:
1512: Payment for a roll of blue say (woollen bunting) for the banner of a ship 'with Sanct Androis cors in the myddis'.
1540: Delivered to be three ensigns for the ships sixteen 'elnis' red and yellow 'taffites'. Delivered to be the crosses thereof, four 'elnes' half 'elne' white 'taffities' of Genoa.
I've left out details of the dates and price and people concerned and turned the old Scots into modern English where I am certain of the meaning. I presume 'elnis/elnes' are measures and that 'taffities' is a type of fabric. Red and yellow were the Stuart livery colours and were sometimes used as the field of the white cross. There is no indication of how the two colours were arranged.
David Prothero
, 24 November 1998

Use of the flag

July 1st 1999 was a very special day for Scotland and her people: after nearly three hundred years Scots regained the right to govern themselves, with the opening of the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh. It was a day full of flags, mainly the Saltire of Scotland, but with lots of others. The palace of Holyrood House was flying the new Scottish royal standard (at least "new" in terms of being used) while the queen was in residence. Edinburgh Castle was flying the Union Flag as a royal fortress and the General Assembly building, the temporary home of the new parliament, was flying the Union Flag on its left tower and the Saltire on its right tower (it has a twin-towered gateway).
Graham Bartram
, 4 July 1999

The "Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia" notes that the Saltire: blue with a white diagonal cross, is the flag of St. Andrew, patron of Scotland. It is the correct flag for Scots or Scottish corporate bodies to demonstrate their loyalty and nationality.
Randy Young, 19 March 2004

Of the flags of England, Scotland and Wales only the Scottish Saltire is, established by (Scottish) Constitutional Law, the Cross of St George is (as David states) established by custom and practice and the Welsh Dragon by Order in Council? In this instance I am taking the phrase "Constitutional Law" to mean 'Parliamentary Law', and not for a moment forgetting both the importance of "custom and practice" in English common law, and the legal status of a Royal Order in Council issued under the Royal Prerogative.
Christopher Southworth, 15 April 2004

Possibly the largest Scottish saltire "raised" can be seen in this image, from the Six Nations rugby tournament in Sydney, Australia, 2004.
Colin Dobson, 28 September 2004

The Sunday Times reported:
"Last year the First Minister (Jack McConnell) introduced a policy (23 November 2004) of flying the Saltire above all public buildings to instill national pride and to promote the country to foreigners. The flag is displayed at the Parliament, at Bute House, the First Minister's official residence and at Scottish Executive offices."

Some other examples of how the saltire is used include:

  • flag poles outside Perth's library and on a flag pole high up on the main Perth & Kinross Council building, at least three hotels and on Perth's museum.
  • Perth's football (soccer) stadium when it hosts a international football (soccer) match, involving Scotland.
  • Balhousie Castle in which the region's British Army infantry Regiment (Black Watch), has its museum has on its highest point, only a large Saltire flying from a flag pole. Five weeks ago, the Black Watch recruited in Perth's High Street. The exhibition trailer they used had two short flag poles, with two large Saltires and a billboard with poster depicting a large Saltire. Underneath the poster's Saltire were photos of infantry soldiers, armoured vehicles and the large words "SCOTTISH INFANTRY". There seemed to be no sign of a Union flag.
  • The Black Watch, which has only one battalion, the 1st, while in Iraq occupied a base named Camp Dogwood where the base's flag flying from a tall flagpole was a Saltire and not a Union flag.
  • It is common for a Scottish Regiment's armoured vehicles to have a small painted Saltire, on their turrets and trucks often have a painted Saltire on a bumper.
  • Five of the Black Watch were killed during this operation, four Scots and one Fijian. Television and newspaper reports of the two funerals, I saw showed each coffin, having a Saltire draped over it.
  • In July 2005, a Norwegian three masted tall ship visited Montrose and in June 2002, a Danish three masted tall ship visited Dundee. Both, flew a Saltire as the courtesy flag.
  • The Scot 100 South Pole Expedition, a dedicated Scottish expedition ended successfully in December 2004. Craig Mathieson who skied most of the way across Antarctica solo, flew a Saltire on reaching the South Pole.
Thomas Murray, 2 October 2005

A Scottish Parliament Flag?

The Magazine "Scotland on Sunday" reported discussion on the introduction of a flag for the Scottish Parliament.  It was reported that Members of Scottsih Parliament (MSPs) want to create a distinctive emblem to fly over Holyrood in a bid to promote its identity and restore pride. Among the new designs expected to be considered by the parliamentís cross-party housekeeping group is a version of the parliamentís existing logo, which features a Saltire against a purple backdrop with a crown above and cords to each side. Some Scottish Nationalist MSPs, however, are opposed to the idea, believing that as Scotlandís national flag, only the Saltire should fly above Holyrood.

Extracted from Scotland on Sunday, (click here for full article) located by Phil Nelson, 3 January 2003

In response to this article, and a query directed to the Scottish Parliament, the following reply was received:

"The article that appeared in Scotland on Sunday in December 2002 refers to 'new designs expected to be considered by the parliament's cross-party housekeeping group'. I can confirm that the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB - the 'cross-party housekeeping group') did consider the issue of having a parliamentary flag, but the matter is not currently a priority and I believe that it has not been taken any further. Should it wish to do so, the new SPCB elected by the new Parliament in May could consider the issue again in the future.
I hope that this will be of assistance.
Elizabeth Cantlie
Public Information Service, The Scottish Parliament

Sean McKinnis, 4 April 2003


Patriotic Souvenir Flag

Recently I noticed, on sale in a down-market souvenir shop in Largs, a single-sided flag with the following description:

  • First quarter: A Scottish saltire flag, superimposed on which is a mountain (in red) in front of which stands a sword-waving mediaeval warrior (in grey), no doubt intended for William Wallace.
  • Second quarter: A dark blue field, inscribed with the best known quotation from the Declaration of Arbroath, in white letters (from "For as long as a hundred..." to "...but for Freedom".
  • Third quarter: A dark blue field with the first verse of "Flower of Scotland" in white letters.
  • Fourth quarter: The Scottish Royal Standard.
  • On a red scroll across the centre of the flag is "Scotland" in large red letters.
  • The whole flag is surrounded by a double row of blue and white checks, possibly influenced by the cap band of the Scottish police force?
Kenneth Fraser, 28 July 2013