Scottish independence could change UK flag

When the people of Scotland take to the polls Thursday to vote in their country’s independence referendum, the results could have a ripple effect on flags worldwide, including potentially Cayman’s.  

The current United Kingdom flag, known as the Union Jack or Union Flag, incorporates the national symbols of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It features St. Andrew’s Cross of Scotland, which includes the blue background and the white stripes, St. George’s Cross of England, and St. Patrick’s Cross of Ireland. Wales was already united with England when the first Union Flag was created in 1606, so as a principality rather than a kingdom, it is not explicitly represented on the flag. 

The Cayman Islands flag features the Union Jack in its top left hand corner, along with the Cayman Islands coat of arms and motto “He hath founded it upon the sea.” 

Charles Ashburner, chief executive of the U.K.’s Flag Institute, said if Scotland votes in favor of independence, he believes it is inevitable the U.K. would change its flag. 

“There should be no automatic repercussions in most cases,” Mr. Ashburner said. “Countries and territories that use the Union Jack in their flag have their own laws that protect their flag design.” 

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Australia and New Zealand, for example, have laws that protect their flags and prohibit any changes without a people’s vote, he said. 

“If the U.K. were to change it for themselves, that would not automatically mean changes. However, if it is seen the U.K. is changing its flag, I think other flags would be changed,” Mr. Ashburner said. 

“Other countries would have a long, hard look at their own flags.” 

The protocol coordinator at the Cayman Islands Protocol Office, Meloney Syms, said she was not aware of any plans to change the Cayman Islands flag, or of any approved entity assigned to development of an independent flag.  

The Coat of Arms, Flag and National Song Law (2005 Revision) states the Governor in Cabinet, meaning the Cabinet, may issue guidelines on the use of the Cayman Islands flag and the Coat of Arms. “As noted in the Laws, any use or derivation of those National Symbols would have to be approved by submission to the Cabinet Office,” Ms. Syms said. 

In 1999, the British Ministry of Defence’s publication “Flags of All Nations” removed the white background discs from the illustrations of both the blue and red ensigns. “However, the pure white disc remains on the official flag of the Cayman Islands,” Ms. Syms said. “Both versions of the flag remain in circulation.” 

Mr. Ashburner said he hopes the U.K. flag will not change. “It’s one of the best known, most aesthetically pleasing flags in the world,” he said. “While I believe it must change, I will be extremely sorry.”  

In a survey conducted by the Flag Institute, almost 65 percent of respondents said they felt the Union Flag should change if Scotland became independent. Of those surveyed, just over 71 percent said a new flag for the United Kingdom should include an element that represents Wales.  

When asked who should decide if the flag should change, almost 46 percent of respondents suggested citizens of the U.K. should decide in a referendum. 

He said New Zealand had announced it would vote on changes to its flag next year.  

More than 4 million Scots are eligible to vote in Thursday’s referendum. By Wednesday afternoon, polls were indicating that a predicted outcome was too close to call. Polling stations open early on Thursday morning, with the results expected to be known by 7 a.m. Scottish time, 1 a.m. Cayman time, on Friday. 


NO supporters at George Square, Glasgow, Scotland, wave the Union Flag with the Royal Standard of Scotland, ahead of Thursday’s Scottish independence referendum. – PHOTO: AP
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