I look at the old Saltire afresh #EveryonesFlag - Caroline Duffield

The most important thing to note is: many of our fears didn’t come true. Back in 2013, I began squinting at the Saltire. It fluttered in a new light in front of me. It was everywhere: on flagpoles, on the sides of trains, painted on faces and on long fingernails.

I lived in Northern Ireland for part of my life, and territory there was always marked by flags. No matter which colours, the flags were far more than symbols.


There is a feeling of crossing a boundary there. Or maybe, just staying on the right side of a boundary in your speech: make sure you say this, not that.


That feeling of boundaries crept out in 2013, and with it some new habits. The Yes flag became a new map, warning me to avoid certain conversations with neighbours, or that some pubs were a less likely stop on my walk.


And yet, the worst didn’t happen. Maybe we have Scottish rugby to thank; or Robbie Burns’ inclusive spirit of unionism. When Andy Murray felt embarrassed by Alex Salmond’s Saltire stunt, perhaps in that moment most of us felt it too.


When Laura Muir seized the Union Jack and demanded her rightful lap of honour, the whole of Scotland cheered: because that’s our flag, as well.


Future historians will likely find the reason. Whatever it is, the hardness that comes with flags did not sink permanent roots into Scotland. The white slogan is fading, and weathered as they are, the political flags barely seem like Saltires at all.


Maybe division simply undoes itself in the end. For me, I look now at the old Saltire afresh, and it is like a long-unseen friend. How very different to the slogans it is.


From Caroline Duffield.

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