Public opinion would force a change in the Union flag if Scotland voted for independence, The Drum was told today.
Charles Ashburner, chief executive of The Flag Institute, likened the potential situation to the death of Princess Diana where pressure from the media led to Buckingham Palace flying its flag at half-mast as a sign of mourning.
“This isn’t a normal situation, there is no form of precedent to follow,” Ashburner said, adding that in the event of Scottish independence it would be “inconceivable that the citizens of the remainder of the UK would want to be represented by a flag that is one third Scots".
Asked who would be in charge of the decision to change it, the expert vexillologist pointed out that the Union flag had never been officially adopted as the emblem of the United Kingdom but had just“fallen into use.” Therefore, he said, there was no one responsible to oversee or protect the national flag.
Ashburner said that this “typically British wooliness” could also lead to the country having two flags because the existing Union flag design was such a strong brand people would keep using it even if the flag officially altered. “Bizarrely we might have to adopt the flag in order to change it,” the chief executive added.
One anomaly a change in the flag would be an opportunity to correct would be the lack of any symbol of Welsh identity in the current design. As Wales was officially a principality when the Union flag came into common use nothing in its design represents Wales.
A survey carried out by The Flag Institute showed that 65 per cent of its members believed the current flag should be changed if Scotland left the Union, with 71 per cent agreeing that any new design should include an element to recognise Wales.
Ashburner said that the poll was initially just intended as an internal exercise and he did not anticipate the strength of feeling he found on both sides of the debate. The survey, he said, showed just how “emotive” and “tribal” many people felt about the national emblem.