Anger over “horrific” new flag for Sutherland

The new flag. Picture: The Northern Times
The new flag. Picture: The Northern Times
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Outraged opponents of a region’s new flag have hit out, branding it ‘ugly’, ‘communist’ and ‘like an outer Mongolian third division football team.’

Sutherland will soon have the new emblem after designs were drawn up.

But to say the swooping eagle on a yellow and red background with three stars or “mullets”, has not gone down well is an understatement, and questions have been raised over what it has to do with the county.

One opponent likened the flag to one of “an outer Mongolian third division football team” one said the bird looked more like a ‘budgie’ and another likened it to a “communist flag”.

Carey Kerr said: “It is horrific. The last place I think of when I see that flag is Sutherland. There is absolutely nothing Scottish about it. A very sad outcome.”

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Sutherland’s Lord Lieutenancy team had organised the competition to find an image for a new flag that would “unify” the county.

The new flag will be officially launched at an event later in the year, to be attended by the Lord Lyon, who has given his seal of approval to the design.

Sutherland Vice Lord Lieutenant, Lt Col Colin Gilmour, hailed it as “eye-catching”.

Sutherland is only the fifth of 34 Scottish counties to secure its own distinct flag and the third mainland county to do so, following its neighbour Caithness in January 2016 and Kirkcudbrightshire, later that year.

Orkney and Shetland both have their own flags but Lord Lieutenant Dr Monica Main said: “You can’t please everyone”.

There were 328 entries for the contest, which was launched last September and ended in November.

An 11-strong selection panel comprising members of the Lord Lieutenancy and representatives of youth and other groups across the county spent a day sifting through entries.

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They were guided by flag expert Philip Tibbett and heraldry expert Dr Joseph Morrow, the Lord Lyon of Scotland, who was present at the selection day.

The panel eventually chose three winners with the final design an amalgam of all three.

However, the criticism of the design centres around the yellow and gold colour and the use of the eagle rather than a wildcat – seen to be the traditional emblem of Sutherland.

Brighter Brora secretary and former Brora Community Council chairman Kathleen Cunningham, said: “Somewhat disappointed. It’s way too strident and in no way reflects the atmosphere of Sutherland landscapes. How about green or purple for heather or blue?”

Retired primary school teacher Sheila Robertson added: “Really don’t like the colour scheme – don’t feel it represents our beautiful landscape and palette.”

Carly Macbeath urged organisers to go “back to the drawing board” while Lesley Fergus said the design was “not suitable at all”.

Mary Naylon even said the swooping eagle looked more like a “budgie”.

Lt Col Gilmour, spokesman for the flag selection committee, said it was inevitable that some comments on the final choice would be unfavourable.

He said: “Importantly the young generation seem very enthusiastic about it. Feedback from the children and youth is overwhelmingly positive.

“In response to some of the comments raised, and for clarity, the following facts should to be considered.

“Regarding the wild cat, the land of the Cat is properly Caithness, not Sutherland. The original land of the Cat or ‘Cait’ (from about 800 AD) centred on Caithness and just included a small part of south-east Sutherland.

“The confusion comes from the Gaelic name for Sutherland which is ‘Cataibh’ which does indeed mean ‘cat land’ but it originated when south-east Sutherland and Caithness all fell under the one Pictish region.

“Unity of the county, especially including the west and north, was considered the key factor by the selection committee, so selecting an emblem that was historically limited to only a very small part of Sutherland (the south-east) and another adjacent county, might reasonably be considered to have been unrepresentative of the county as a whole.

“The eagle featured prominently on a considerable number of the entries, indeed much more so than the wild cat. Its current prominence in many parts of Sutherland was selected as a unifying factor across the county. Since the overwhelming factor in the design was ‘unity’, this is provided by the eagle.”

East Sutherland and Edderton ward councillor Jim McGillivray, who was on the selection committee, added: “To my mind it conveys an active and dynamic image that reflects ambition, purpose and indeed fierceness, set in colours that historically defined the House of Sutherland as the heraldic backdrop to the whole exercise, as was required by Lord Lyon.

“Personally, I am proud of ‘The Sutherland Eagle’. It has really grown on me the more I look at it.”