A ROW has broken out at Stirling Council after Labour and Tory councillors launched a bid to replace the Saltire with the Union flag as the authority headquarters’ main symbol.
According to The Herald, the two parties - who run Stirling Council in coalition - claimed to be standing up for ‘symbols the men and women of Stirling have fought and died under for 300 years,’ adding that it was also an attempt to form part of the independence referendum debate, reflecting the diversity of views in the area.
Opposition leaders have slammed the decision, which comes at a time of cuts costing millions of pounds at the council, with academics adding that the move will be a turn-off for voters.
The motion, set to go before the council this evening, is signed by Labour’s Danny Gibson and Callum Campbell of the Conservatives.
It adds: “Council resolves to stand up for the symbols of our country by flying the Union flag from the main pole above the council building and the council flag from the freestanding flag post in the grounds of Old Viewforth.”
The council claimed that replacing the Saltire with the Union flag as the main symbol, and having the Scottish flag alongside it, would bring the authority into line with the Scottish Parliament.
But Dr Michael Rosie, sociology lecturer at Edinburgh University told The Herald: “This motion is slightly odd, largely because there’s no evidence that anyone is getting that excited about flags.
“The mainstream No campaign has avoided issues around identity. Seeking electroal advantage through notions of Britishness is a politica ldead end and I imagine things like this motion will turn so many No voters off.”
Dr Rosie also warned that references to having ‘fought and died for 300 years’, which are included in the motion, were a ‘cheap shot’ and ‘ill-advised’.
Strathclyde lecturer Dr Neil McGarvey, who specialises in Scottish Politics and local government added: “This seems like a highly party politicised act on the part of the council and brings to mind the type of identity politics of Northern Ireland constructed around issues such as flags, names and symbols.”
The majority of councils fly the Union flag on occasions such as Royal birthdays, anniversaries, visits and other special events, totalling around 20 days every year.
The Labour-run Glasgow Council has been targeted by fringe Loyalist groups in recent months for flying the Saltire, rejecting offers for a new flagpole to allow both flags to be flown.
SNP group leader for Stirling Council Graham Houston said: “We’re trying to save £24 million and we’re going through a Labour dispute with bins on the streets unemptied and the administration wants to debate flags.
“I’m more than happy to discuss the referendum but to use their majority to fly a flag as part of their No campaign is a ridiculous position to take.”
But Councillor Campbell insisted the flags element was just a part of the motion, adding that there had been ‘online hysteria’ over the motion.
He said: “I’m not exactly sure what the council’s policy is on flying the Union flag. It flies sometimes. But I see no reason why we shouldn’t be the same as Holyrood.”
Cllr Campbell added that the ‘online hysteria’ had been generated by ‘hotheads’ keen to avoid a referendum debate and the policy on flags of other Government buildings.