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Flag of Scotland

 The Saltire, the flag of Scotland, with an official Pantone 300 coloured field.
The Saltire, the flag of Scotland, with an official Pantone 300 coloured field.
The Royal Standard of Scotland, often used as an alternative national flag, especially at sporting events.
The Royal Standard of Scotland, often used as an alternative national flag, especially at sporting events.

The flag of Scotland features a white saltire, a Crux decussata (X-shaped cross) representing the cross of the Christian martyr Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, on a blue field. It is known as the Saltire or the Saint Andrew's Cross. In heraldic language, it may be blazoned Azure, a saltire argent.

The Saltire is one of the oldest flags in the world, traditionally dating back to the 9th century, and is the oldest national flag still in modern use, the oldest state flag being Denmark's Dannebrog.

 

History

According to legend, King Óengus (II) (or King Angus) led the Picts and Scots in battle against the Angles under King Aethelstan of East Anglia near modern-day Athelstaneford in East Lothian. King Angus and his men were surrounded and he prayed for deliverance. During the night Saint Andrew, who was martyred on a diagonal cross, appeared to Angus and assured him of victory. On the following morning a white St Andrew's cross against the background of a blue sky appeared to both sides. The Picts and Scots were heartened by this, but the Angles lost confidence and were defeated. The Saltire has been the Scottish flag ever since.

Material evidence of the Saltire's use dates from somewhat later. In 1385 the Parliament of Scotland decreed that Scottish soldiers should wear the saltire as a distinguishing mark. The earliest surviving Scottish flag consisting solely of the saltire dates from 1503: a white cross on a red background. By 1540 the legend of King Angus had been altered to include the vision of the crux decussata against a blue sky. Thereafter the Saltire, in its present form, became the national flag of Scotland.

Colour and dimensions

The Saltire, the flag of Scotland, with a 'sky blue' coloured field.
The Saltire, the flag of Scotland, with a "sky blue" coloured field.

At various times colours as light as sky blue or as dark as dark navy have been used (a selection apparently motivated by which colour of blue dye was available at the time), although recent versions have largely converged on the official recommendation of Pantone 300. In 2003 a committee of the Scottish Parliament proposed that the Scottish Executive (Scottish Government) adopt this colour as a standard. It is worth noting that this blue is of a lighter shade than the Pantone 280 of the Union Flag).

The flag proportion is not fixed but is generally taken as 5:3 or 3:2, the former being preferred. The cross should have a width of 1/5 of the height of the flag.

Use in other flags

The Scottish Saltire and field is one of the components of the Union Flag, the flag of United Kingdom. A reversed version (blue saltire on a white field) is to be found in the naval ensign of Russia (see Russian Navy) used before and after the Soviet Union (Saint Andrew is also a patron saint of Russia).

Additionally, the blue Saltire on white design is featured on the Coat of Arms of Nova Scotia, Canada and its flag (Nova Scotia was originally a Scottish colony), but the blue used for Nova Scotia is generally a light blue. Similarly, the Spanish island of Tenerife and the remote Colombian islands of San Andrés and Providencia also use the saltire on their flags.

See also

References

Flags of the United Kingdom
UK Union Flag | Royal Standard
Home Nations England | Scotland | Northern Ireland | Wales
Ensigns Blue Ensign | Red Ensign | White Ensign | Royal Air Force Ensign