New protocols will see the Union Flag permanently flown outside South Lanarkshire Council’s HQ

A Union Flag will now be flown outside South Lanarkshire Council’s headquarters permanently, following new protocols which were approved this week.

The move comes after councillors heard it was only raised outside the local authority’s base on certain occasions – despite the fact there are three poles.

You are reading: New protocols will see the Union Flag permanently flown outside South Lanarkshire Council’s HQ

In future, it will now be flown at the HQ in Hamilton alongside the Saltire and South Lanarkshire flag.

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However, the national flag of the Ukraine will take the place of the latter until further notice.

The Conservatives said it was not controversial to fly the Union Flag, but the change provoked a backlash form the SNP, who labelled it “completely unnecessary”.

A motion brought forward by Conservative councillor Kenny McCreary called for a new protocol to be adopted by the council as there was no locally-determined rule governing the use of the three flag poles at the headquarters.

Councillor McCreary (Bothwell and Uddingston), said: “In June of this year, many of our residents celebrated the Queen’s Jubilee, leaving the Union Flag at various events in recognition of Her Majesty’s 70 years service, indeed the Union Flag flew over many various churches and town halls.

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“However one place noticeably where the flag did not fly was outside our headquarters. This omission in my view highlights the fact that South Lanarkshire Council’s flag policy is in need of review.

“Scotland is part of the UK yet the flag of the Union only flies outside headquarters on certain occasions despite the fact that we have three flag poles and therefore capacity to fly both the Saltire and the Union Flag permanently.”

Councillors heard that both the Union Flag and Saltire are flown permanently by other local authorities, including neighbouring North Lanarkshire, as well as at the Scottish Parliament.

Seconder of the motion, Liberal Democrat councillor Norman Rae (Cambuslang West), added: “South Lanarkshire Council is the local democratic voice of our communities and it’s import that our actions or public face seems to be inclusive not least at a time where issues of identity and constitutional status provide regular causes for division.

“The symbolism that we attach to flags and the emotions they can generate are clear, they are passions and attributed meanings that can bring people together but also divide. For this reason it is important that we provide clarity regarding which flags are flown and under what conditions.

“For this council and its three headquarter flag poles, it is difficult to understand why we don’t routinely fly the Union Flag, the Saltire and the council’s own flag representing our community’s Scottish and UK identities. This motion gives us the opportunity to establish a protocol which recognises the current arrangement of the state, South Lanarkshire sitting within Scotland and the UK and the identities that attach to these flags. By doing so the council can acknowledge these significant identities equally.”

Although the new protocol was approved, it received backlash from the South Lanarkshire SNP group who proposed an amendment to the motion.

The amendment was brought forward by Councillor Ross Clark (Larkhall) and seconded by Councillor Andrea Cowan (Rutherglen Central & North). It called for the council to continue the Scottish Government protocol regarding flags.

Councillor Clark said: “I’m astounded by this Tory and Lib Dem motion which just seems completely unnecessary, I’d therefore like to propose an amendment on behalf of the SNP group.

“The Tories ran their election campaign with the slogan ‘Your local priorities not the SNP’s’. I’d like to ask the Tories how they determined this was a local priority for the residents of South Lanarkshire?”

He added: ”Instead of trying to help people during a cost of living crisis designed by their own party, they have brought forward a motion on flags. It seems like Tory priorities rather than those of our communities. The Tories and Lib Dems have not demonstrated what is wrong with the current system or why this is needed.

“As stated in the amendment, the current guidance allows us to reflect the diversity of our communities and our equalities policy.”

The meeting heard that by flying the Union Flag and Saltire the council could “acknowledge the significant identities equally and with due regard to all” and that there was a “unifying rather than divisional potential of flags”.

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However, councillor Cowan added: “We already broadly follow Scottish Government protocol. I don’t see anything wrong with the status quo, I think this is a waste of council time, especially at this time when there’s a cost of living crisis.

“People are more worried about how they’re going to feed their kids and heat their homes, I think that’s what we should be working towards. I just think this is a complete waste of council time, South Lanarkshire Council residents I’m sure aren’t aware of what flags are flown outside the building and I think this is just a waste of time.”

Council Leader Joe Fagan (East Kilbride Central North) said: “Flags are clearly emotive symbols to some people in our community, I have to confess I’m not one of them. but I can see the importance in ensuring that the symbols the council uses reflects South Lanarkshire’s different identities.

“I actually think that when you take some of the nonsense out of the debate that we’ve just heard, the motion as drafted actually takes quite a level and considered approach to the issue of a protocol.

“On becoming leader I did learn that there was no specific protocol here in the way that a number of other councils have their own protocol. So I do think there’s merit in looking at our own policy.

“I think the motion allows us to mirror the Scottish Government guidance, which includes things like the Rainbow flag and World Aids Day, and also recognising that this is not a Scottish Government building, this is the municipal headquarters of a council and it makes perfect sense that the council should deviate from the Scottish Government’s guidance where we locally believe that to be appropriate.

The Labour councillor added: “I see no reason why we should stick to our policy which strictly actually requires us to fly two Saltires and potentially to the detriment of the council flag or the Union Flag or any other flag that may have significance to the community. ”

Liberal Democrat councillor Robert Brown (Rutherglen South) said: “We’ve got three flags, we should be flying the Union Flag. the Saltire and the community flag.”

He added: “I’m quite astonished that the SNP should take objection to that, I think it only speaks to the exclusionist version that they make of Scotland’s national life. It’s actually quite important that we recognise the divisions in our society and try to reconcile them.”

The Union Flag, Saltire and a South Lanarkshire flag will now be flown outside the building, but deviation from this will be permitted for reasons such as commemorations, causes and other events. This means the Ukraine national flag will fly alongside the Saltire and Union Flag until further notice.

When it came to the vote, 33 councillors voted in favour for the plans proposed by councillor McCreary and 27 voted for councillor Clark’s amendment.

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