SOUTH Uist is to have the first officially recognised community flag in the Outer Hebrides.
The design will now be entered into the official records of the Court of the Lord Lyon, where all such flags – including the saltire itself – are recorded.
The community hope it will provide a boost to the area in a similar way community flags have helped Shetland, Orkney and Caithness, which also have their own recognised, iconic flags.
The South Uist flag is a blue Nordic cross edged with white on a green background – similar to the Norwegian flag – and is used widely on South Uist including greeting arrivals at Lochboisdale Harbour.
The origins of the design are unknown but it likely dates back at least 15 years.
The efforts to have the flag recorded were championed locally by local Donnie Steele who secured the support of the island’s Community Councils.
Funding was then provided by the community landlord Stòras Uibhist, for whom South Uist makes up a part of their estate.
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Recognising the well-established and highly popular usage of the design on South Uist, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar were also happy to support the island’s petition to the Lord Lyon.
This work was supported by Alasdair Allan MSP, and his office, who facilitated the engagement of Philip Tibbetts, Communities Vexillologist from the Flag Institute.
Philip has supported the development of community flags throughout Scotland, including Caithness and Kirkcudbrightshire, and was able to provide his experience and advice to South Uist.
Other communities with their own flags include Shetland and Orkney.
The recognition of the flag is planned to be celebrated at the South Uist Games on 19 July, with a raising ceremony.
In the long term it is intended that the flag can be used innovatively to enhance the local community and bring global recognition such as has been seen with Shetland, Orkney and Caithness.
It is hoped that the idea for community flags will not just to stop at South Uist, with Barra certainly known to be seeking recognition for their long established flag.
Other islands and communities are encouraged to develop flags, for recording with the Lyon Court, to help with their own internal identity and external visibility.
Those wishing to do so are encouraged to contact Philip Tibbetts.
Donnie Steele said: “I have been working on recognition for a year now, and I am delighted to announce that the flag of South Uist has been officially recognised by the Court of The Lord Lyon.
“Official recognition will be an enormous boost and can only enhance South Uist, which we must take full advantage of. Discussions with key stakeholders such as community councils, Stòras Uibhist and the Comhairle were very positive, and the green light was given to drive this forward.
“We need to look at innovative ideas and ways to enhance the local community, recognition brings Global identity to South Uist and economic benefits/opportunities will ensue.
“Official recognition will be an enormous boost and can only enhance South Uist. We must take full advantage of this.”
Ian Paterson, chief executive officer of Stòras Uibhist, said: “With the support of Stòras Uibhist, former Councillor Donnie Steele and Philip Tibbetts of the Flag Institute have worked tirelessly for several months to gain the community of South Uist, through the Court of the Lord Lyon, the privilege and grant of an ensign flag; a first for the Western Isles.
“Donnie Steele and Philip Tibbetts are to be commended for their hard work on behalf of the community of South Uist.
“Stòras looks forwarding to the flag raising ceremony planned to mark this achievement scheduled to take place at the South Uibhist Games on the 19 July.”
MSP Alasdair Allan said “It’s great news that the community in South Uist will now have its flag formally registered in the Lyon Court and recognised as theirs.
“The flag is already widely used locally and I hope that this move will help promote South Uist’s unique identity and strong community spirit.
“This is a project I am personally very supportive of and I would like to thank Donnie for his efforts on this and Philip for all the work he has done – and is doing – to promote community flags across the Western Isles.”
Philip Tibbetts, Communities Vexillologist for the Flag Institute, said: “It is wonderful to see official recognition for a flag that for so long has been used so passionately, by South Uist and I am immensely proud to have helped support this petition to the Lyon Court on behalf of the Flag Institute.
“Being such an iconic design I am sure this will be a great symbol for the island, becoming as successful as the highly popular flags of Shetland, Orkney & Caithness. I look forward to supporting any other community that would like to do the same.”
Stòras Uibhist is the largest community land estate in Scotland, with a land mass of 93,000 acres covering South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula.
The Flag Institute is the UK’s national flag charity. The Institute is the world’s leading research and documentation centre for flags and the largest vexillological membership organisation in the world.
The Institute provides vexillological services to HM Government in the UK and many other organisations around the world, including the United Nations.
These services include advising on the use of flags, designing new flags and collating information on the flags of the world.