SCOTTISH Government spending on small plastic Saltires has doubled in the past year amid claims that the SNP is bidding to counter the pro-Union effects of the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee.
Taxpayers splashed out £8,300 during 2011/12 on the flags which were distributed at events like the Ryder Cup in the US. This compares with a sum of £4,500 in 2010/11.
The figures came under fire from opposition leaders who have accused the Nationalist administration of using them in an attempt to outnumber Union Flags at events but ministers insisted that the Saltires were simply used to promote Scotland. Events where flags have been distributed this year include the recent Ryder Cup in Chicago, which Alex Salmond attended along with a 30-strong entourage of officials. They were also handed out at 2012 Olympics football matches at Hampden Park in the Summer. .
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “It’s no surprise to see the SNP splashing out on flags in this manner. Especially after they were found to be handing out Saltires at jubilee events in Edinburgh over the summer in an attempt to quell the masses of Union Jacks being proudly waved and presumably purchased by choice.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added: “Flag manufacturers are doing well under the SNP. After expensive outings to the Ryder Cup and spending £100,000 on a Scottish embassy in London during the Olympics, Alex Salmond should reflect upon how these costs are perceived by the taxpayer.”
A Scottish Labour party spokesman said: “Right now, people are concerned about jobs and the cost of living with rising energy bills; things like this just show that the Scottish Government do not understand the issues that really matter to most Scots.”
But a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Saltire flags give a sense of place to Scottish events, which attracts international media attention and helps to promote Scotland on a world stage.”