Scottish Parliament bosses ‘wrong’ to remove EU flag, says SNP MSP

The flag of the EU is at present flown alongside the Union Jack and Saltire outside the Holyrood building. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The flag of the EU is at present flown alongside the Union Jack and Saltire outside the Holyrood building. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A senior SNP minister has weighed in to an escalating row over the removal of the European flag from outside the Scottish Parliament at the end of January.

Brexit secretary Mike Russell claimed it was the “wrong decision which needs to be changed”.

His comments were made after Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh wrote to all MSPs on Thursday to inform them of the decision taken by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB).

The body, which makes decisions on the running of Holyrood and is made up of a representative from each political party, agreed the flag should be removed at 11pm on Friday, January 31.

READ MORE: Scottish Parliament to stop flying EU flag

Mr Russell said on Twitter: “The flag is not only a symbol of our solidarity with the #27 and all EU citizens in Scotland, it also represents our wish as a nation to return to membership of a union we never voted to leave.”

Posting a picture on social media of the EU flag flying alongside the Saltire outside the Parliament building, he said there was “strong support” among MSPs for it to remain after Brexit.

Hitting out at the Parliament’s decision, he added: “There is strong opposition to this regressive and isolationist policy and every effort will be made to change it.”

Tricia Marwick, Mr Macintosh’s predecessor as Presiding Officer, said MSPs could force the Parliament to change its decision if they voted for the policy to be reversed.

A spokesman for Mr Russell said later that Scotland’s clear vote to remain in the EU “needs to be properly demonstrated by Holyrood continuing to fly the EU flag”.

He added: “Taking the flag down on Brexit day would send completely the wrong message. We believe all MSPs should be able to have their say on this issue and we are now looking at how this might be brought to a vote of the full Parliament.”

The European flag, with its gold stars on a blue background, was designed to stand for the “ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe”.

It was first developed by the Council of Europe (CoE) in the 1950s and also adopted the EU some 30 years later.

The UK Government recently underlined its committment to the CoE after Brexit was completed.

Speaking last week, the UK Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, said: “As we leave the European Union, the country and the world should know that this nation stands for liberty, freedom and human rights.

“One mark of our standing for those values will be our continued vigorous participation in the Council of Europe and our subscription to the convention on human rights.”

In his letter to MSPs, Mr Macintosh said the SPCB had agreed that after Brexit, the Scottish Parliament “will no longer fly the EU flag on a daily basis”.

He added Holyrood will still fly the Council of Europe flag on Europe Day “as a mark of our continued ties with that body”, adding the Parliament’s flag policy will now be “amended to reflect these decisions”.

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “The decision taken reflects the legal position that the UK will no longer be a member of the EU from 31 January.”