New challenge to take down EU flags at Scottish buildings
A petition has been lodged at Holyrood calling for the “Scottish people’s view” to be tested on the issue more than six months after the UK formally ceased to a member of the EU.
Ministers say the flag is still flown to recognise the value of EU nationals in Scottish life.
A move last year to stop flying the EU flag at the Scottish Parliament had to be shelved after it met with rebellion from MSPs.
Holyrood’s petition committee is now considering the issue after the petition was lodged by Philip Smith.
“This petition is necessary to ensure the Scottish Government stops flying the flag of an organisation that the United Kingdom is no longer a member of,” he states.
“Although we have left the European Union, Scotland is still a member of the Commonwealth.
“The petition should be allowed to test the Scottish people’s view on whether to have the Commonwealth flag flying in place of the European at Scottish Government buildings.
“An example of where this has already taken place is Gibraltar which is now proudly flying the Commonwealth flag.”
The Scottish Government has said that the EU flag is flown from Scottish Government buildings daily, except for specific flag flying dates.
Ministers said, in response to a letter from Smith, that this is done to provide a “concrete and visible expression of the value that we place on the contribution that EU nationals have made to our country”.
The Commonwealth has its roots in the former British empire and is now made up of 54 “independent and equal” nations. Africa as a continent has the most members, with 19 nations, including Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.
There are 13 European nations among the membership, along with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India and Pakistan among others from other continents.
Many Brexiteers had suggested the UK’s economic ties with Commonwealth states could be bolstered outside the EU. But the organisation’s highest profile perhaps comes from the games it stages every four years, with the Glasgow Games in 2014 proving a major success.
The UK ceased to be a member of the European Union at the end of January, although it currently remains in a near “de facto” state of membership, with the EU’s laws and regulations continuing during a transition phase, which is due to expire at the end of the year. But the issue remains a source of contention in Scotland with almost two-thirds of Scots having voted to remain in the EU in the 2014 Brexit referendum, while the weight of votes south of the border swung the outcome in favour of leaving.
The SNP government has pledged that if Scotland ever votes for independence in a referendum, it will move to quickly rejoin the Brussels bloc.
The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) – a management group made up of an MSP from each of Holyrood’s parties – had made the decision earlier this year to remove the flag after Brexit on 1 February, but to fly it each year on Europe Day.
However, this was overturned after pro-EU SNP and Greens won a vote on the issue demanding the flag be kept in place.
The motion passed by MSPs noted that Scotland and the UK would remain in the Council of Europe, and said the flag should stay up “as a sign of support and solidarity with those EU nationals who have made Scotland their home”.
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