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Sutherland, Scotland (United Kingdom)

Last modified: 2019-01-09 by rob raeside
Keywords: sutherland | scotland |
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[Sutherland flag] image located by John Moody, 15 December 2018

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Description of the flag

Sutherland's flag was revealed on December 14th 2018. It was the winner in a vote of four finalists, held in November 2018 which had been selected by a judging panel rather than a public vote. The plangent criticism of this original selection process led to the imposition of the public vote. The new flag was unveiled at a ceremony hoisted by the county's Lord Lieutenant.

At Drummuie, Golspie and attended by representatives of HMS Sutherland, local veterans and pipers from Sutherland Schools Pipe Band raised the flag.

The combined saltire and Nordic crosses denote Sutherland's early history as a Scottish territory under Viking control. At the point where the arms of the two crosses meet, is a golden sun which is said to symbolise "the sun raised high in the south for the origin of the county name "South Land" as well as the sunrises seen on the East Coast and the sunsets on the county's West Coast. The black colour of the cross recalls the peat of the "Flow Country" and dark skies and together with the white recall the central colours of the former Sutherland coat of arms.
John Moody, 15 December 2018

The January 2018 Flag

[Sutherland flag] image located by Dave Fowler, 28 January 2018

A flag has been developed for Sutherland County, in the north of Scotland:
Dave Fowler, 28 January 2018


The Sutherland flag was announced by the “Northern Times” on January 26th 2018, following a competition to devise a county flag, established by the local community in conjunction with the Flag Institute. The winning design was added to the registry a week later; it features a swooping eagle, seen face on, against a vertical bicoloured red and yellow background, with the eagle counterchanged yellow and red. The pattern is intended to symbolise the county’s position with both Atlantic Ocean and North Sea coasts. At the hoist are three red stars or mullets. These, plus the red and yellow colour combination, are taken from the arms borne by Hugh de Moray Earl of Sutherland which were also incorporated into arms awarded to the former Sutherland County Council and district council.

Controversy over the January 2018 flag

The “Herald” today features a controversy over a flag design officially proposed for the former county of Sutherland. It was chosen by a panel convened by the Lord Lieutenant (I am not sure how one can appoint a Lord Lieutenant of a county that no longer exists, but that is the British Constitution for you) and approved by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, but has been heavily criticised and the decision is now on hold.

The flag is divided vertically, red in the hoist and yellow in the fly, with a flying eagle – depicted as if heading straight for the viewer – superimposed in counterchanged colours. Towards the hoist are three yellow stars disposed vertically. Perhaps it is available in the online “Herald”. At any rate there have been strong objections (which I would agree with) on the grounds of the flag’s unintentionally Communist aspect. It is true that a red shield with three yellow stars was the arms of the old Earls of Sutherland, but the Lord Lyon ought to have been aware that nowadays such a design would have been associated by ordinary people with Communism, reminiscent as it is of the flag of the People’s Republic of China.

The "Herald" writes (

PLANS to introduce a controversial heraldic flag branded "ugly" and "communist" for Sutherland have been put on hold amid huge opposition. The registration of the design, which critics said belonged to an "outer Mongolian third division football team", has been frozen by the Lord Lieutenancy for the time being. The move follows widespread condemnation of the standard which features a swooping eagle with three stars – known as mullets – on a bright yellow and orange background.
     More than 850 people signed an online petition calling for it to be changed amid criticism Sutherland residents had been denied a vote on it. The design was chosen by a selection panel following a competition run by the Lord Lieutenancy. The row has hit the headlines internationally, with critics vilifying the design as a "budgie with a smirk" but at first the Lord Lieutenancy insisted there would be no re-run of the competition. She said the selection process had been open, transparent and democratic.
     Supporters of the design, which had been approved by the Lord Lyon, say that the petition signatories represented fewer than five per cent of the county's population. It also said there had not been the funding available to ballot households in Sutherland. However, it now appears the strength of the hostility to the chosen design has shaken the group and there has been a re-think.
     Vice Lieutenant Colin Gilmour, Rosehall said: "As the secretary of the Sutherland Flag Selection committee, I can say on its behalf that, at this stage, it is felt that a period of reflection is indeed in the best interest of all parties – both those for and those against the flag." He added: "A further statement will be made in due course." Lord Lieutenant Dr Monica Main, a retired GP, has written to MSPs who have contacted her about the issue. In a letter to Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron, she explained: "It is unfortunate that an exercise which we thought would unite the county, has in fact done the opposite."
Kenneth Fraser, 24 March 2018

The voting for new flag of Sutherland county was opened on 2018-10-29 and will last until 2018-11-26. People can vote online at the Flag Institute website, or send their votes offline by mail. The previously adopted, then suspended flag of the county is currently one of four proposed designs.

Source: BBC News website:
Tomislav Todorovic, 7 November 2018