Saturday 7 July 2007

Some thoughts on flying the flag

I don't really see myself as a small minded, narrow, flag waving nationalist - for a start, I don't own any flag bigger than the wee paper ones from Letham SNP (as stylishly modelled by my potplant!). I do, however, get some satisfaction from seeing the Saltire flying in the breeze above the City Chambers in Glasgow as I walk across George Square. It makes me think that, as in other independent nations across the world, a flag flying above a public building is a subtle sign that you exist.

I don't think we in Scotland should take the whole flag-flying thing too far, nor do I think we actually need to, because we have a fairly strong sense of who we are. I feel when nations have to continually wrap themselves in the flag, there's some latent doubt in society over identity. The United States is a prime example - a society which is huge and diverse, where children salute the flag each morning at school, and ordinary citizens take incredible pride in flying flags from their homes. When I was last down in England, the Flag of St George was flying from nearly every car and window - which is a real sign that people there are starting to think of who they are and who they want to be as a nation.

At a debate in the Council last week, many Labour Councillors were queueing up to say how proud they were of British institutions like the BBC, and how they felt equally British and Scottish; yet I don't see them falling over one another to hoist the Union Flag up the City Chambers flag pole. Gordon Brown, on the other hand, believes that the Union Flag should be flown from public buildings as often as possible, and has changed some old rules to let this happen. It might win him some votes in Middle England, but falling back on to the flag smacks of desperation to me.

Brown also talks of wanting to "take on" those people who don't conform to his sense of what being British is. He talks of terrorists, and of extremists. Does this mean me? I would never claim to be British, not out of any sense of animosity, but because I don't identify with the concept or feel I belong. When ever I go to London, I feel like a tourist in another land. Even small towns in England feel foreign to me: people don't understand me, I have to speak slower and more clearly. They reject my currency, they don't know anything about my politics (one friend of my boyfriend's parents asked me "what's an MSP?").

One of the positive things I did take from the BBC article linked to above was that David Cameron has come out with an unexpectedly sensible take on the matter:

In a speech last year, Conservative leader David Cameron accused Mr Brown of wanting to "institutionalise" being British, arguing it was possible to feel "multiple patriotism" with loyalties not only to where you live, but also to where you were born.

"I think we should realise that Britishness is a concept that, if grasped too hard, slips away," the Tory leader added.

I wouldn't deny that there are some people who have attachments to the Union flag, just as there are people who have attachments other flags or none. None of us should be forced, however, to fit into a stereotype of subjects in Brown's green and pleasant land or be branded terrorists.


Anonymous said...

Some good and interesting comment here. Keep it up.

David said...

in order to try and keep you out of trouble with labour councillors, i;ve started my own blog, similar to yours but different at the same time