Saltire colour

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While I support Mr Roche’s enthusiasm for defining the background colour of the Scottish flag as Pantone 300 in commercial applications (Letters, 3 August), I should point out that the Pantone system dates from the 1960s but the Saltire derives from the Battle of Athelstaneford (735 or 832 AD).

Heraldry uses symbols – images and colours. Real skies can be any colour. In the 1540s Scottish ships’ flew white crosses over the Royal red and yellow. The Saltire flag is a two-dimensional symbol for a three-dimensional conflict which echoes Constantine I’s Battle of Milvian Bridge (312) near Rome.

The white of the Saltire is heraldic sunlight radiating from a central point in the sky.

The Saltire is neither crossed jumbo-jet trails nor a curious cloud formation. The latter dates from Tranter’s novel Kenneth (1990) in which he describes “a cloud-formation in the exact shape of a cross”. Tranter’s manuscripts are in the National Library of Scotland.

But in an address to the West Lothian Covenant Association on St Andrew’s Day, 1951, he cautions that his novelist’s imagination should not be taken as historical accuracy – “who am I, as a perpetrator of romantic fiction, to cast doubt on any such picturesque stories?”

Michael T R B Turnbull

Longniddry, East Lothian