Behind the Flag of Scotland

Sep 6, 2017

Learn about the story behind the flag of Scotland. Find out about the symbolism behind the white cross and blue background.

Some listeners of the weekly edition to Celtic Faire may know that the researcher of the topics is very proud of her Irish heritage; however to bring awareness to the fullness of all nations celebrated by the Celtic Cultural Alliance today’s spot features information about the flags of Scotland. We’ll be covering flags of other Celtic nations in subsequent podcasts.

The national flag of Scotland is also known as Saint Andrew’s cross or the Saltier. The white X from corner to corner over a blue background rather than the royal standard of Scotland is correct for all individuals and corporate bodies to fly in order to demonstrate both their loyalty and Scottish nationality. The symbolism represents the legendary story of the Christian apostle and martyr Saint Andrew the patron saint of Scotland who was crucified on an X shaped cross at Patras in Achaia.

Use of the familiar iconography of his martyrdom first appears in the kingdom of Scotland in 1180 during the reign of William the First. This image was depicted on seals used during the late 13th century including one particular example used by the guardians of Scotland dated 1286. Use of a simplified symbol associated with Saint Andrew has its origins in the late 14th century when the Parliament of Scotland decreed in 1385 that Scottish soldiers wear a white Saint Andrews cross on their person both front and back for identification purposes. The use of a blue background for the Saint Andrews cross is said to date from at least the 15th century.

The legend surrounding Scotland’s association with Saint Andrew’s cross was related by Walter Bauer and George Buchanan- who claimed that the flag originated in a 9th century battle where Angus the Second led a combined force of picks and Scots to victory over the Angles – an early tribe of Germanic peoples who would later become Britain. Supposedly a white Saltier appeared in the blue sky and Angus’s troupes were roused to victory by the omen.

So there you have it. The story behind the flag of Scotland.

For the Celtic Cultural Alliance, I’m Sheila White - Slainte