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By Jason Michael
Pressure to fly the red, white, and blue of the union flag is a new development in the politics of Scotland. We are right to see this as a creeping Ulsterisation because this is precisely what it is. It is the prelude to the devastation of a country.
Flags are seldom, if ever, neutral devices. Coloured fabric they may be, but as symbols of national identity; together with all the historical memory that includes, flags are a visual icon – a window – into the deepest and most ingrained sense of belonging people have with regard to their connection to their people, their nation, and their state qua the modern nation state. Materially it makes no difference whether the red, white, and blue union flag or the blue and white saltire of St Andrew flies over Scotland’s parliament or any public building. But flags – or “flegs,” thanks to loyalist shenanigans in the north of Ireland – are so much more than fabric.
The purge of the Union flag: today’s Scottish Daily Mail. https://t.co/TGYKXDyiyi—
Michael Blackley (@Mike_Blackley) January 24, 2018
What flag flies over our national parliament is a matter of ontology; a question of the essential and fundamental differences in the categories that give us meaning. While it may be ‘just a flag,’ the question of what flag that is has the power to rouse extraordinary – often violent – passion in the people involved in the discussion.
After decades of British government instigated sectarian conflict in the north of Ireland, the British media simply cannot plead ignorance on the subject of flags in the contentious politics of the nations of the United Kingdom. In fact it is safe to say the British establishment media knows better than most the power the deployment of a flags dispute has in the disrupting of otherwise civil political conversations. So when yesterday a number of leading daily newspapers – including the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Express – decided to run with the entirely fictional claim that Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, had insulted the royal family by supressing the union flag in Scotland during royal occasions we can assume their intention was to unnecessarily whip up religious and political sectarian tensions in the Scottish national debate.
Flying our national flag, the Union Jack, is something that all public buildings should do every day of the year, b… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…—
Andrew Rosindell MP (@AndrewRosindell) January 24, 2018
It is unacceptable that a national media outlet would run with such a scurrilous fabrication attacking the First Minister and the Scottish government – while simultaneously sowing the seeds of bitter sectarianism and violence – without first checking its facts. That no fewer than three national newspapers, together with a number of radio shows, ran with this header indicates a conspiracy – a premeditated and concerted attack. What is perhaps more troubling is the fact that, without taking an explicit position itself, the BBC assisted in the propagation of this lie by featuring this story on its news bulletins through the morning under the cover of reporting the newspaper headlines.
We are expected to believe that not only did the editors of the newspapers and the radio shows in question not check their facts, but that the BBC also never bothered to do this. At the very least this is a monumental failing of journalistic standards. It is a failing that forces us to seriously consider the role of the BBC played in what was quite obviously a conspiracy.
The truth – not something that appears to trouble the British media at the best of times – is that the change in flag flying policy in Scotland had nothing whatsoever to do with Ms Sturgeon. It was following an audience with the unelected British head of state, Mrs Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg und Gotha, in 2009 that the then First Minister, Alex Salmond, altered the Scottish government’s policy on flags in 2010. From that time – almost eight years ago – the union flag is flown only on Remembrance Day. On royal occasions the Lion Rampant, the royal standard of the Kingdom of Scotland, is flown in Scotland. This is entirely appropriate – insofar as one accepts the appropriateness of monarchy.
BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) January 24, 2018
Since 2010 this policy has not been an issue of concern to the BBC or to the rest of the British establishment media. It certainly has not been a secret. Why – we must now ask – has this become an issue of concern to them now?
Scotland’s future in the union, as part of Great Britain, is no longer certain. The desired result of the 2014 referendum – from the standpoint of London; that independence would be defeated and that as a consequence the pro-independence movement would evaporate, was never achieved. Independence was temporarily defeated but the movement has persisted, placing Scotland firmly in the same position as Ireland and India before it – on the way out, and we remember how Britain played the end game in those countries. It stirred the pot of ancient hatreds and sectarian division.
In splashing the claim that the First Minister has somehow torn down the union flag all over the front pages, the mainstream media has whistled to a segment of the population in Scotland which is eager to believe this rubbish. Even after retractions and apologies, as we have seen, this embittered part of the population still believes the lie – because these people want to believe it. The claim confirms their assumption that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are traitors, that they are “enemies of the union.” Reading between the lines the message is clear; people are being called upon to defend the union.
Britain will not simply take a bow and retire from Scotland if and when we decide to take up independence. Britain will scorch the earth and dynamite the bridges in its retreat, as it did in Ireland and as it did in India and everywhere else where it was asked to sling its hook. The weaponisation of the union flag at the end of British colonial projects has always been the prelude to violence and bloodshed. This has always been Britain’s parting shot. The butcher’s apron has earned its name.
The rationale of “flegs” in the British politics of control.