Stopping the spreading rash of Union flegs

When I was a kid, the Union fleg was only regularly seen flying on Orange Walks. As a Catholic wean from a family that was partly of Irish descent, it was a flag that said that people like me were not welcome, that we were excluded, that we were regarded as aliens in the land of my birth and my parents’ birth. It was a symbol of hate and sectarian bigotry. It was the flag that the Orange marchers flaunted as they stood outside the church were I made my first communion as a small child, while we cowered within in fear. It was a flag that said that we were powerless, and which was used to assert and reinforce the lower position on the social hierarchy of part of the Scottish population. It was a flag that ruled over the divide and rule of the British state. It was not my flag. That was made very clear to everyone in Scotland who was of Irish Catholic heritage. It was the flag that told us that we did not belong. It was the flag that told us to be silent, to acquiesce in our lower status, the flag that said you are here on sufferance.

During the independence referendum, the red white and blue became the symbol of a No campaign which accused independence supporters of politicising the Saltire. The Union flag added a new layer of exclusion to its existing associations with sectarianism and bigotry. Now it was also the flag that told Scotland that it was not to govern itself, the flag that told the half of this land who support independence that Scotland must content itself with a subordinate position. It’s the flag that says no, the flag that lectures us on what we can’t do. It’s the flag of limited horizons and pursed lips. It is now an overtly political symbol in a highly politicised Scotland, the symbol of that part of the Scottish population which doesn’t want independence.

Decades later, the Union fleg is still not my flag, it’s still not the flag of hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland, but it has spread all over public spaces like a nasty rash. It is imposed on us all as we are branded as Brits whether we like it or not. It has spread into shops and onto driving licences and in public spaces without any consideration, or even awareness, that not everyone in this country of Scotland has had a positive experience of it. You can’t buy a bag of potatoes without the Union flag staring out at you, reminding you that even your tatties have been colonised. It’s the politicisation of chips.

The spread of the red white and blue is due in part to marketing decisions made in offices in Slough and Reading, in London and Bristol by managers who have no experience of Scotland and who have no reason to be interested. It’s spread is a symptom of Scotland’s economic and political powerlessness. It reminds us on a daily basis that all the decisions which affect us are made elsewhere by people who don’t feel any need to consult us.

The Union fleg is the flag that tells us that Scottish sensibilities count for nothing, that our experiences can be ignored, that our political views can be crushed. To at least half the population of Scotland, it’s not a flag that speaks of unity and common purpose. It’s not a symbol which creates a cosy sense of belonging. The Union flag is the flag of triumphalism and the gloating ignorance of the British establishment. It’s the flag that tells Scotland to get back into its red white and blue shortbread tin. It’s the flag which rubs the faces of hundreds of thousands of Scots in our own powerlessness to determine our own future.

The Union flag is the flag that erases us. It’s the flag that tells the world that typically Scottish products are British, British whisky, British shortbread, British tweed. And to the rest of the planet, that means English. Britishness doesn’t permit Scotland to punch above its weight, whatever that cant means. Britishness makes Scotland invisible in a world where Spanish speakers talk of el gobierno inglés when they mean the British government. Scotland doesn’t figure in their imaginations. British means that Scotland no longer exists, that it has no presence, no place in the world. It’s the reduction of what is supposed to be a family of nations to a monolithic entity whose character is determined by its largest and most powerful part.

The spread of Union flags is exactly like a rash. I suffer from psoriasis, which flares up during times of stress and uncertainty. It covers my body in unsightly lesions. It irritates and annoys. The recent rash of Union flags flaring up in our supermarkets and public spaces is a symptom of the stress and uncertainty of the British state. It irritates and annoys us, but it’s a sign that the British body politic is weak and under stress. The grip of Britishness is slipping, that’s why it’s important that we are not silent about this erasure of Scotland’s identity and distinctiveness.

The erasure of Scotland is dangerous when Scotland is a part of a state which regularly denies Scotland’s voice and Scotland’s distinctiveness and is dragging Scotland out of the EU without Scotland having any say in the matter. Scottish products are being subsumed into Britishness, losing their distinctiveness, a distinctiveness that speaks of quality and tells consumers that they are quality premium products. What makes this even more dangerous is that once Scotland is hauled out of the EU, Scottish products will lose their protected status.  Cheap American grain whiskies can be branded as Scotch, anyone with a cow or sheep whose ancestors once ate some grass in Scotland could brand their beef or lamb as Scottish.

When you don’t complain, it’s taken as compliance. So complain. Occupy the time of customer service departments of shopping chains. Complain on social media to supermarkets about their Union fleggery on carrots, potatoes, raspberries. Buy Saltire stickers to cover the Union flag on your driving licence. Let those who unthinkingly plaster Union flags on our produce know that we don’t have the same opinions or sensibilities as they do. Let them know that Scotland is not a region, and we will not be made invisible.  If Scottish products must have a flag on them, that flag must be a Scottish one.

And most of all, support Scotland the Brand. http://www.keepscotlandthebrand.scot/ Unlike psoriasis, there is a cure for the spreading rash of unionjackery. That cure is independence.


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64 comments on “Stopping the spreading rash of Union flegs

  1. Andy Anderson says:

    Every word you write about the Union flag is correct.

    I have two friends who are Irish who visit Scotland regularly and England occasionally. Last summer they were in Yorkshire and noted George crosses everywhere. They also felt that people wanted to know where the come from. They said the overall impression was of mild threat like they as visitors were not Welcome.

    • We shouldn’t see The Desperation Jack as a threat but rather as a hilarious attempt to try to push Britain as a “great” brand even as it is falling apart at the seams with austerity, foodbanks, Brexit, etc etc.

      Nobody is fooled.

      • Marconatrix says:

        The last union flag I saw, earlier today as it happens, was quite literally ‘falling apart at the seams’. No doubt due to recent gales here, it had a huge gaping rip through the middle.

        I saw it as a State of the Union message 🙂

  2. grafter says:

    The Butchers Apron continues to fly outside Aberdeen Townhouse thanks to Labour lackey Barney Crockett and his wee cabal of Tory/Labour incompetents. They have been replacing this colonial obscenity countless times as within a few weeks our inclement north east wind rips it to shreds and leaves it like rag it surely is.

  3. Has somebody produced Saltires of just the right size to correct the driving licence error?

  4. Macart says:

    I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but up until indyref 1 I had some regard left for what is now laughably called the British sense of fair play. I had some respect for the union fleg and that sometimes, only sometimes, it stood for something good despite the establishment it represents. A residual loyalty and respect as it were. You can’t really help it. Being brought up to believe we were always the good guys was just the way it was.

    You overlooked how the spread of empires were really achieved. You overlooked casual racism. Gan doon the Chinky’s or the Paki’s were just words. No harm intended. Nigger broon was just a colour. No harm intended. Tims were the folk who lived doon the road in a different world because reasons and they were just the wrong sort. But still. No harm intended. Being called Jock or sweaty was just banter. Seeing your people stereotyped as drunks on screen … No harm intended.

    Truth is. It was all harm. It was intended. It was exceptionalism. It was conform to a state sponsored definition or be alienated. Lose your identity. Lose your self respect. It was conform, be absorbed and become good second class citizens. Punch bags for proper Brits (whatever they are). Become the butt of jokes and take it like a stand up furriner.

    I’ve lost that regard in the past four years. I can’t look at that piece of cloth now without feeling deep shame for what it really stands for. The people it has pigeonholed. The folk who have been put in harms way in its name and the name of the politics it represents. The people we had a part in harming whilst creating its legend. There’s too much red on it. Too much greed. Too much sadness. That kind of politics and what it does to people, needs to end.

    We can be better and we can have a piece of cloth of our own that can hopefully stand for something better.

    • Thepnr says:

      The Black and White Minstrels, Till Death Us Do Part, Robertsons Jam? All served the same purpose, it was a means of conditioning the thinking of a population.

      I was young admittedly then but it all just flew over my head and like you Macart I’ve been awoken to the reality of it all. We that have had our eyes opened are fighting back now and they are on the run.

      • Cubby says:

        A whole generation of Scots grew up with the only image of a Scot on the English telly was either a violent drunk, a plain ordinary drunk or a violent criminal. Billy Banana Feet did his bit on this for many a year. Ugly racism at its worst aided and abetted by Britnat Scots.

        • Mary Murray says:

          And that’s why the BBC was willing to pay for the last series of ‘Still Game’ – because it perpetuated the idea of Scots as uncultured ignoramuses. On the other hand, any programme showing Scotland in a good light – scenery, classical music etc. – is shown on BBC Scotland only.

      • Macart says:

        Just call me Sam. 🙂

        All too familiar isn’t it? What we were brought up with. What we took for granted. Britnats think we don’t we don’t understand them you know? The problem is? We do. Only too well.

    • Sandie K says:

      Brilliantly put Macart.

    • A says:

      I wish I could express myself like that. So well put and exactly how I’ve felt since 2014.

    • Alan Finlayson says:

      I wish I could express myself like that. So well put and exactly how I’ve felt since 2014.

  5. grizebard says:

    It’s a direct consequence of go-alone UKexit. Get out of the UK before Brexit and the bully flag is gone. It’s as simple as that.

    You think it’s bad now? You don’t know the half of it. Just wait until it’s too late and the UK can devote undivided attention to its North British colony. Streets will be festooned with the damn thing, together with all the multiple other devious subjugations that will accompany it.

    Don’t like the flag? Well, get out NOW while you still can.

  6. alanm says:

    There’s a pattern emerging here; Scottish athletes are routinely rebranded as “British” (at least they are when they’re winning). You can no longer choose to buy Scottish produce in your local supermarket because everything they sell that’s made or grown here is now labelled as “British.” You can’t even turn the telly on without being confronted by the Great British this or the Great British that. Next thing you know they’ll be telling us we’re all “Brits” and not Scots at all. Oh wait….

  7. bringiton says:

    Scottish farm produce leaves Scotland to be processed in England after which some of it returns wearing a Union Jack in the supermarkets (Lidl excepted).
    The same thing happens with the Unionist politicians we send south.
    It is an English disease.

  8. Thepnr says:

    We are not powerless though in the face of this onslaught of Union Jackery. We can vote with our feet and after the recent revelations of Tesco policy over the branding of their products I have done so though it might not be so convenient.

    I live in the sticks though there is a Tesco and Asda 7 minles away, they will deliver to my house so I’ve usually used them. Not any longer as there is an Aldi 17 miles away that I’ve chosen to use instead.

    Their meat, all of it is marked as Scottish produce. Their fish, their eggs, their haggis, their lentils and split peas among many other items are at least packaged in Scotland if not grown or raised here. I like that philosophy.

    The prices are great and I’ve no complaint either about the quality, although a bit more inconvenient it saves me money and tells Tesco that we are NOT powerless. We just stop buying their products and only this will send the message to STOP messing with half the poulation of Scotland if you want their custom. Barstewards.

    • Jan Cowan says:

      We don’t have an Asda store locally but we do have Lidl and that’s where I now shop. Good store with excellent fruit and veg.

      I have noticed that plastic bags containing animal feed now sports a Brit flag BUT must say I really enjoy using them to line the rubbish bin……..the more muck the better!

  9. Cubby says:

    Excellent piece from the master wordsmith. I always find it hard to understand Scottish Catholics of an Irish heritage who vote for the Britnat parties.They vote for a union which intrinsically is prejudiced against them. The Union that says in the Treaty that no papists can be King/Queen or married to said King/Queen. Straightforward discrimination. They seem to be all for Irish independence/reunification but Scotland needs to remain in the Union.

    A friend always voted labour – at the last general election voted Tory to save the Union. What a leap – labour to Tory. A Scottish catholic of recent Irish heritage. Just doesn’t seem right to me. Bizarre even. People so conditioned they are desperate to be British?

  10. steelewires says:

    i worked in francophone Africa for a dozen years. When I would make a new acquaintance, often the conversation would go something like this;
    Tu es anglais!
    Non je suis britannique!
    Eh bien, c’est l’anglais.
    Je ne suis pas anglais, je suis écossais.
    Qu’est-ce que c’est?
    Je viens d’un pays du nord de l’Angleterre appelé l’Ecosse.
    Mais c’est aussi l’Angleterre!

    You’re English!
    No I’m British!
    Well, that’s English.
    I’m not English, I’m Scottish.
    What’s that?
    I’m from a country north of England called Scotland.
    But that’s England too!

    I would give up in despair and frustration, unless there was time to explain the geography, history, and politics of the Union.

    • Cubby says:

      It would appear that the only thing that keeps Scottish identity alive in a lot of parts of the world is Braveheart, Outlander and now Outlaw King. Pretty sad.

    • Interpolar says:

      Tell me about it!
      I could give the exact same transcript in German if you like. And don’t blame them. “Großbritannien” is such a mouthful.
      As someone who has spent most of their life outside the British Isles, I can confirm it‘s not just England that conflates English and British, it’s most of the world.

      Scotland will be recognised, let alone punch above its weight until it’s independently represented on the world stage.

      Online, I cringe when I have to wade through a list of territories including St Kitts & Nevis, Faroe Islands, Macao and Isle of Man, yet still opt for United Kingdom.
      As a small sign of protest, I have my word-processor language set to English (Ireland).

  11. chicmac says:

    I am not a catholic but I came up with my own way of crossing myself. Shoulder to hip on either side. The Saltire. I used to do it every time I saw a union flag. Wasn’t too arduous a task and it made me feel better.

    Of course, the proliferation of the jack, since way before indyref1, has long made that an impossible task or at least not one to undertake unless you want guaranteed RSI.

  12. I read of the piper who played a Union Flag set of bagpipes during the Poppy Festival, somewhere, in England, I think..
    That did it for me.
    You may notice that at May’s press conferences she is flanked by two union flags folded in such a way that the cross of St George is the only feature visible.
    A quite deliberate ploy to appease the good yeomen of Merrie England.
    Supermarkets must be lobbied; I refuse to buy any produce with the stain of Empire used as its USP.
    I shall never darken Tesco’s chain again.
    You may recall that during Project Fear One the BT brigade threaten us with supermarket price hikes, and those English and US owned supermarkets owners backed up the lies.
    well, if ASDA, Tesco’s, and Morrisons pull out of Free Scotland, I’m sure Lidl, Aldi, and Carrefour will step into the breach.

    Note to any trader in Scotland:- if you want to halve your potential customer base, plaster your stalls with the Jack.

    And another thing: how do we stop the invisible hand naming new hospitals, hospices, and public building after members of the Hanovarian Dynasty?
    I doggedly refer to the Southern General as just that.
    The Royal Family’s pervasive and oppressive brand is everywhere.

    Yet in Cornwall, there is nary a Jack to be seen.

  13. Sandie K says:

    Excellent blog post yet again Wee Ginger Dug. Superb.

  14. Cubby says:

    Never seen a National newspaper in Lidl or Aldi. Struggled to get a copy recently and ended up getting one in Sainsbury’s.

  15. Les Bremner says:

    “Limited horizons and pursed lips” is a perfect description of Unionists in general and No voters in particular.

    I know a number of well educated and well heeled people who I thought would have the brains and experience to want to be in a forward looking independent county but they do indeed have limited horizons and pursed lips.

    • Les Bremner says:

      I have just noticed my typo. ‘County’ should have been ‘country’, but actually it fits the limited horizons outlook so I am going to lie and say that I meant it.

  16. Vestas says:

    Its not just Scots produce.

    Tesco slap a Spanish flag on Catalan chorizo – says quite clearly its produce of Catalonia but there’s a big Spanish flag on it.

    Of course its not political at all is it Tesco?

  17. Gavin C Barrie says:

    “Now that I’ve thought about it” – my mental response to the Scottish Government’s exclusion from Brexit negotiations, and now the the proliferation of the Butchers’ Apron has been a feeling of separateness from, of interference by, of occupation, by an alien culture.

    I haven’t visited England for a fair numbers of years, and now, I have no wish nor intention to visit.England is foreign to me.

  18. Welsh Sion says:

    Ok, so the following is in Gloucester,, but it the façade has been reciprocated on my local Aldi here in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, East of Englandshire. Be careful, Scotland, it may be coming to you next….

    https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/whats-on/shopping/take-look-inside-newly-refurbished-1502846

    In other news …

    https://www.itv.com/news/wales/2018-10-09/row-breaks-out-over-whether-union-jack-flag-should-be-flown-at-royal-welsh-show/

    As for getting rid of the Butcher’s Apron, on a lighter note, how about this? Oh, please, oh, please:

    Union Jack Removals

  19. Alba woman says:

    Over the Rutherglen Town Hall a Union Jack flies 365 days a year every year has done for aeons. The newish SNP administration has, it appears, been unable to remove or replace it for even a day.

  20. Tol says:

    This is the insidious act of “Colonising the Mind” as @Jegget puts it.

    After 2014, when Scotland wasn’t going back in the box, Westminster is now attempting to swallow it hole. It now aims to remove any future threat by erasing the idea of Scottishness…leaving it nothing more that a quaint marketing idea.

    Run…Run while you still can

  21. susan says:

    I find the rash of union jacks on food disgraceful too. My local scotmid is doing it with veg particularly. Asda always did so it doesn’t get my custom. Tesco and Morrisons not so much, until recently. I guess it’s Aldi here I come lol.

  22. Thepnr says:

    Why would such as Tesco chose to involve themselves in politics when it could and will likely affect their sales and profit? For any business it should always be about the bottom line but this company doesn’t seem to care.

    At least the people running the company and making these decisions of behalf of their shareholders don’t seem to care.

    I think now that they have gone too far, it is unavoidable and even those that wouldn’t believe us when we tried to tell them first time around that they were being propagandised must be able to see that it is all true.

    Another fatal mistake by them that rule over us, taking things too far risks opening other peoples eyes who would not normally have noticed, all we have to do is causally point it out to those that are not yet aware. So never fail to drop the likes of the rebranding of Scottish products with the Union flag into your conversations.

    We still need to persuade a few, the stupidity of the government helps but it is us that will need to do the work. Onwards and upwards, the day of reckoning is getting closer and this time the result will be decisive.

    • chicmac says:

      Yes Thepnr, I predicted many years ago that there would come a point where they stretch the credibility elastic to breaking point. I hear pings going off all the time now.

  23. Stuart Mcnicoll says:

    Picked up the Aldi and Lidl Christmas brochure. Aldi have gone Britnat crazy, British beef, pork , Turkey, cheese, chippolatas, mint sauce, cakes from Lincolnshire. I remember last year they did the same but had a note at the bottom of brochure that Scottish stores would have Scottish produce, not this time.
    I’ve gone way past ‘ if its got a jack, put it back ‘. If it does not have a Saltire, stuff it. I buy continental produce if I can’t get Scottish.

    • deelsdugs says:

      Likewise Stuart. What I did do with Aldi however, was to complain via social media about their ad at prime time tv, aimed at students, emblazoned with a jeck on Scottish itv. I’ve not seen it since there were a few exchanges of which they did come out with the ‘we always promote Scottish products’, yes, that may be in Scottish stores says I, but not over what is supposed to be a bit of Scottish tv, on an ad aimed at students on ITV which, by the way Aldi, also appears on Scottish tv screens.

  24. Cairnallochy says:

    Am I correct in believing that Tesco do not put the butcher’s apron on goods in Northern Ireland ?

    If so, I wonder why ?

    I suppose one might say that when we criticise companies for pursuit of shareholder value to the exclusion of all other values, we can’t complain if Tesco and others put their political principles first. But we can shop elsewhere and I buy eg sausages etc from local small butcher, even though they are more expensive and some distance away.

  25. John Bell says:

    As an elder and member of the Reformed Church I should be a Protestant of the staunch union jack waving British Establishment but I would describve myself as Christian first.( I wonder why Protestants should be staunch and Catholics always devout but that’s an argument for another day.) I am Scottish and want to be part of an independent Scotland. I refuse to sing the anthem of another country and will not buy Scottish goods branded with the Union Flag.

  26. James Gardner says:

    Weel at least ye kin buy Unionshittery toilet paper, however the last time I checked on Amazon awe the suppliers hud ran oot ! Has ther’ bin a run on it fae Indy Supporters oor hus brexshiteers spendin’ mair o’ ther’ time in the cludgie theses days, whit a shower o’ fearties. Still the guid news is ye kin still buy Donald Trump toilet rolls !

  27. alasdair smith says:

    Labour and tory councillors at North Lanarkshire council recently passed a vote to have the union flag flying alongside the saltire and council flag every day. Previously the saltire was flown every day and the union flag only flown on certain occasions such as military events and council visits.

  28. John Watson says:

    Agree that people must complain, Dug. But me thinks that it might also help if the so-called party of independence provided a wee bit of leadership on these sorts of issues for a change. The SNP seems to be run by a bunch of insipid liberals who’s instinct is to back down from every confrontation. Enough is enough.

  29. Hairy Jack says:

    If all the supermarkets are festooning your food with the union jack and trying to ram imperial politics down your throat then order groceries online from Scottish farmers.

    There are many veg/fruit/grocery box schemes to choose from. You can order itemised deliveries that include meat, dairy, bread and larder sundries – or just mixed boxes of seasonal veggies. You can get organic or non organic. They will deliver to your door, and you can usually give them a close key if you’re in a tenement. All the food will be grown by local farmers or cooperatives. All will be Scottish produce (where possible, obviously!), and there shall be not a dirty union flag in sight!

    Cut out the supermarket scum who treat their paying customers like cattle to be bullied, hectored and made to feel powerless. You are not powerless! Buy direct from suppliers using a simple google search on the internet, and take the power back from those that would harm you and make you feel weak.

    We all have the freedom to choose, so let’s use it to reward the good guys!

  30. Graham says:

    I won’t buy a Triumph motorcycle because they have union jacked their company logo and plastered it all over their bikes.
    Which is quite amusing given that Triumph motorcycles was founded by two German immigrants and these days most of their bikes are manufactured in Thailand.

  31. gary says:

    I am livid that our local high school has a butchers apron next to the saltire, it replaced the EU flag. I want to write to the headmaster, or education dept but being not as eloquent as some I would appreciate some structure of words and who to write to? any advice??

  32. gary says:

    Im planning to write to the local high school that has put up a butchers apron in place of the EU flag. The saltire flies there too but that horrible flag needs to go! important that the youngsters don’t see it as normal.

  33. Just in from the newly opened Lidl in Yoker.
    Tins (yes tins!) of haggis with price mark above including a heart shaped Union Jack.
    I take it this is a joke by one of the wee price markers.
    you’ll sell none, son.
    Hearteningly most of the meat fish and poultry have the saltire emblazoned across the wrappin

  34. Just in from the newly opened Lidl in Yoker.
    Tins (yes tins!) of haggis with price mark above including a heart shaped Union Jack.
    I take it this is a joke by one of the wee price markers.
    you’ll sell none, son.
    Hearteningly most of the meat fish and poultry have the saltire emblazoned across the wrapping.
    WE are on the brink of an Uprising, Lidl.
    The Butcher’s apron will ensure that stock will be left rotting on the shelf.

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