The Cross and the Lion: The Two Flags of Scotland
Scots have always been proud of their heritage, and have remained fiercely independent of spirit despite centuries of British rule. As with any nation, Scotland’s flag is a symbol of not only the country, but of its people and history. However, unlike many other nations, Scotland could be said to have two flags, not one.
The Saltire Cross
The official flag of Scotland is the Saltire, or St. Andrew’s, cross. It is a simple and instantly recognizable symbol, a white diagonal cross over a blue field. It is named for St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, and has been the official banner of the nation for at least 500 years. The saltire forms the primary background color for the Union Jack, the British flag which is a combination of English, Scottish and Irish crosses. This is the flag which flies over Scottish government buildings in Edinburgh, though on British national holidays, it is temporarily replaced by the Union Jack.
The Lion Rampant
In the days of Scottish Kings, the monarch had his own symbol, separate from the Saltire cross, a red lion over a yellow background, known as the Lion Rampant. This symbol is arguably much older than the Saltire, or at least predates it in terms of official use, first being used over 750 years ago. Officially, it is only to be displayed on royal houses and at royal events, as it is the standard of the royalty of Scotland. But tell that to the souvenir sellers, who adorn just about every mug and t-shirt in the country with it. To many, thanks in no small part to these knickknacks, the Lion has become a more recognizable symbol of Scotland. It has also been used extensively by sports fans, especially the famed Tartan Army football fan group, which supports Scotland’s national side.