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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 18:39 GMT
Flags on car plates - right or wrong?
European style number plates
Motorists in England, Scotland and Wales are being allowed legally to bear their national icons on their car number plates.

The UK Government has bowed to pressure to let drivers carry the St George's Cross, the Saltire or the Welsh dragon on their plates.

Only the European flag with the letters GB beneath had been permitted since the registration system was changed in September.

But is it important to be able to show a national flag on a car number plate? Why does the sight of such icons provoke passion in some people? Could it even increase the risk of a car being attacked at home or abroad?

Our Talking Point has drawn a huge response, but is now closed. Here is a selection of some more of your e-mails.

Why does it have to be right or wrong? Why can't it just BE? Jeez, are you seeking an answer to a problem we don't have or what?
Alan Pooley, USA

One has only to read the comments of letters to see the discourse and ill-feeling against each nationality before the proposal is even implemented. What's the matter with people? Next thing the colour of the car will be a "problem".
Gerry, New Zealand

Sporting the saltire is showing everyone who we are. It's like in sports - if a Scot does well then they are British, but if they do badly then they are just a poor Scot! Our football fans carry a good name unlike the English hooligans, so being able to identify Scots from English could help prevent violence when Scots are abroad.
HJM, Scotland

It's just another thing for exhibitionists to drive around with. Personalised number plates, child on board (usually the driver) and other inane stickers are all there for one purpose - so that the anorak driving gets a bit of attention.
Keith Taylor, UK

Regaining a sense of pride will hopefully make us better citizens and able to work together for the benefit of all

Dave Rampling, England

This seems to be - as the late Douglas Adams put it - Mostly Harmless.
Guy Chapman, UK

I firmly believe the troubles we have with a lack of respect to law, order and the individual is rooted in the fact that we don't have pride in our country anymore. Regaining a sense of pride will hopefully make us better citizens and able to work together for the benefit of all. So I'm all for displaying my country's flag if this small gesture helps.
Dave Rampling, England

Having a flag of the EC logo makes no difference whatsoever. OK, the EC logo appears but the registration layout still says UK. If people abroad want to hurl abuse at UK drivers having an EC logo will make no difference. The only way round this is for all EC countries to have the same registration layout thus no-one could tell if they were from the UK, France etc.
Darren, UK

Ray Marsh seems to imagine that the Scots have a huge chip on their shoulder, what does he base this statement on? Certainly from nothing written on this board and certainly not based on the fact that Scots are feeling more Scottish and less inclined to see themselves as British. If you are going to have any letters on your number plate denoting your country of origin it might as well be correct. Scotland is a country by the way, GB like the EU is a political union of many nations.
John, Australia

I migrated to Australia in 1964 and ever since I have been here I see stickers on cars indicating which country the driver comes from and also each state has a motto they put on the registration plate, it seems to give everyone pride in where they come from.
Reid McMilllan, Australia

Sign me up for one. post it over here, send me the bill.
Kay Bloss, USA

I am proud of my nationality, Irish-Scots. I will be more than happy to bear my country's flag on my number plate when I return.
Paul V Martin, USA

In the modern age, there's no need for national identifiers at all

T. Reynolds, USA
I feel great pride, as do many of my friends who go to France on holiday. We've never had a problem displaying our Scots car plates. We never display GB stickers on principle. We are a country just like any other in Europe, unfortunately we still have England round our necks.
Davidson, Scotland

Simon Watkins of Wales wrote: "I think this latest trend for-over-the-top gestures of nationalism is very worrying."

Why is this "over the top". The only place in the UK I've been where I've experienced "over the top" nationalism is Scotland. It was made very clear to me there that they hate (not just dislike) the English.
John Ekins, UK

United we stand, divided we fall.
Viv, United Kingdom

Let us not fool ourselves that the people of Wales and Scotland ever consented willingly to subjugation from Westminster. They did not, and I don't believe most people did either. These things happened only with much violence and at a time when most people did not have a vote! I wish all my Welsh and Scottish friends every success in strengthening their national identities within a new Europe where Great Britain is an unnecessary tier of government.
Paul Padley, England

These days there seems to be a very fine line between being patriotic and being called a jingoistic racist, which is very sad. We should all be able to put national flags on our cars without being branded as a skinhead National Front sicko!
John Alston, England

Nearly all countries in Europe are a collection of "lands" take Germany for example, to use the flag or symbol on their car registration plates would be utter confusion also impractical.
M.Teague, The Netherlands

All three countries on this island have a great deal to be proud of. I'm proud to be English and I have a great deal of respect for the Scottish and Welsh and think they have a lot to be proud of too. But I don't want an English Flag on my plate and for the following reason. I love my car but certain people in Scotland and Wales don't like the English and Vice versa. If I visit relatives in Cardiff I don't want my car damaged by thugs because they can tell I'm English. The looks I get in Cardiff when I go out in my England shirt says it all. Not all see it the same way I do. It is a chance to show off your nationality of which all British people should be proud but it is labelling and it can be a disadvantage if you want to be covert to avoid trouble with minorities bent on making trouble. Sorry to put a downer on it but that's my experience in life.
Stuart, UK

Some people want to keep their national identity and are proud to display it. I know this goes against the grain with the PC crowd who see us all as Europeans rather than Scots, English, Welsh or dare I add, British. Fly your flag with pride, I say.
Phil, UK

Absolutely right. Every other member of the UK (Scottish, Welsh) and even the Irish get to celebrate their respective Saint's day except the English (If we celebrate St George's day it's seen as racist for some reason). It's about time the English part of the UK were allowed to show some pride in national identity. It may be only a small way but it still means something. And besides, we're not even fully fledged Europeans yet.
Richard H, UK

I live in the USA, I am a British resident and proud of it. For the last three years I have had a metal number plate on the front of my car displaying the union jack. Its a great topic for conversation when filling my car with gas.
Chris Jackson-Lockyer, USA\UK

In the modern age, there's no need for national identifiers at all; the details can quite easily be embedded within the number itself. On the other hand, I suppose it's a relatively harmless way of letting people vent their nationalistic tendencies (though it is a pity the national flags don't cover that hideous EU thing).
T. Reynolds, USA

The EU is the fully fledged 2001 version of the historical "unholy Roman Empire". Why anyone would want to display any connection to the EU boggles the mind.
AB, Canada

Hey, it's a sticker, who cares? I wouldn't care if a person even put a sticker of Mickey Mouse on their car or number plate. If folks want to be patriotic, ok, that's quite all right. I'd be more concerned about those who'd want to force them to not do such.
Stephen, USA

I can't see any logical reason why motorists from the individual countries that comprise the United Kingdom can't display their national flags if they wish. I am however, bewildered as to why the lettering on the registration plate or bumper sticker that must be displayed when travelling to EU countries is GB rather than UK. As GB doesn't include Northern Ireland, I'd be pretty miffed at having to display a GB identifier if I were from Northern Ireland! Some have argued the points discussed here are petty, but we all know how annoyed we get when for example, people spell our names wrongly. We therefore all attach a certain pride to ensuring that who we are and where we're from are correctly communicated to others.
Mike, Scotland

Its just a bit of fun! Live and let live. The world has become very small and we tend to move around more than ever. Wherever you are from or moved to, fly your flag!
Unity, USA

Some people get so wound up about the smallest things! This is an indication as to how much cars have become an extension of people's own identity that they feel they have to use the number plate to express their nationalistic views. Contrary to some postings here the EU symbol is not being forced upon people. It's simply a matter of convenience - either you have a reg plate with it on (useful if you drive in Europe) or you don't, and have to have an ugly great sticker on the back end of your car if you go abroad. It is not a political statement - just a useful way of getting rid of stickers and aiding freedom of movement within the EU which is a very important right! It seems however that some people feel "assaulted" by the mere sight of an EU flag and feel the need to fight back in some way which is so petty. Now we have a mish-mash of a reg plate system. I have no problems with stickers anywhere else on cars, but reg plates are for identifying cars, not politics.
Colin Pickett, UK

Answer to your question on flags is simple surely. Because people are patriotic. We are very proud of our flag in Canada.
Geoff Howe, Canada

Surely the point of the European flag on number plates has absolutely nothing to do with national identity and everything to do with having a standard European car registration system. Something that will benefit us all by reducing motor related crime and therefore is this not a good thing?
James Pittman, England

It's pretty pathetic. Before September 11 no-one even cared and people enjoyed burning flags in the USA. What, now they have a great deal of respect all of a sudden? Who are they kidding?

My goodness me! I had no idea the Scots had such huge chips on their shoulders! For goodness sake give each of them a blue Scottish flag with the motto, "We're Better than the English!" That should keep them happy.
Ray Marsh, Australia

I think using country identity on car number plates would help others to know exactly which country you are from.

There is no right or wrong in this matter

N.Bradley, UK
In Hong Kong, when I speak to mainly Americans visitors here, they are under the total misconception that "Scotland" is part of England. When I ask why they think this, they say "isn't Great Britain, England's other name?"

However, I agree with having country flag on your cars. Because, it would let others know exactly which country the good and bad drivers came from! Not just classing "British" as being all good or all bad drivers as appropriate.
William MacInnes, Hong Kong (Overseas Scot!)

There is no right or wrong in this matter. People have been putting stickers indicating their country for years. Is this any different? It surely is a personal choice and so can not be right or wrong.
N.Bradley, UK

It seems to me that it would be a source of pride, as well as an opportunity for law enforcement to properly identify a vehicle/driver with a national, regional, county sticker.

I think it seems to be a disadvantage to be English at the minute

Tom O'D
Some states here in the US identify the state and the county of the driver's residence. It seems to be most appropriately viewed as a tool for law enforcement. If it is also a source of pride, so be it.
Timothy, New Hampshire, USA

Trivia! Utter trivia!
Joe McGrath, Scotland

Why bother? The marker on the plate refers to where the car is registered (and so which national registration database it appears on). Without the CG on the number plate a separate GB sticker is required.
Keith, UK

Some people are nationalistic; others are car-proud. They've got to let everyone know where they're from.
Jeff, USA.

I think it seems to be a disadvantage to be English at the minute. It is wrong for us to be patriotic, as that is racist. Yet it is okay for the other countries in the Union to fly their flags.

Also, England is the only country in the Union without its own parliament or assembly. Why is this? Scotland has the chance to vote in a UK election and a Scottish election, this makes it seem that they are better represented.

Therefore, I believe that it would be a disadvantage to have the Cross of St George on your car as people see you as a right wing racist, or stereotypical England football supporter.

I am from Wales but my body tingles every time the British National Anthem is played

Gerald Morgan
Go ahead put your own flags on if you want, I would rather stick with the Union Flag, which is the correct name for it as Alan Cooper pointed out, it looks better for a start!

I also believe that this is a completely different situation compared to the differing states policies in the US. They are states not countries. Each one of the countries in the UK has its own customs and traditions and it should stay that way.

I think the UK is what the EU should be modelled on, the system works and we all use the same currency! We should still be able to display our national flags with pride and without fear of discrimination or prejudices.
Tom O'D, UK

I am proud to be firstly British and secondly Welsh as I believe we can only ever survive as a union with Britain (including Northern Ireland) at the forefront of Europe.

Just look at our troops in Afghanistan, leading the way. I am from Wales but my body tingles every time the British National Anthem is played because we are one people within regions not countries. Long live Great Britain.
Gerald Morgan, Wales-United Kingdom

I really can't understand why any one should be in the slightest bothered about flying a flag on their number plate.

We are part of Europe and no doubt we will become more integrated in the coming years, this is a good thing, especially for small countries such as Scotland.

I think this latest trend for-over-the-top gestures of nationalism is very worrying

Simon Watkins
We should glad to be part of Europe for although it isn't perfect and it may waste a lot of money no lives have been lost in European wars for nigh on 60 years and that is something to be proud of.
Campbell Mclean, Scotland

Northern Ireland does not get the regional number plates of the rest of the UK, and as for flags - we're barely allowed them on flag poles let alone cars.
Mark, NI

Luke Magee sums it up perfectly. Like him, I don't particularly want a flag on my number plate and I don't really care what anybody else has on theirs.

The problem is "Europe" trying to force me to display that banal symbol of mediocrity. Had they not tried to do this, this talking point would not exist.

I am not a sheep, and I don't consider myself anybody's property to brand. Why exactly does "Europe" want to brand us all anyway?
Mark, UK

I think this latest trend for-over-the-top gestures of nationalism is very worrying. Logic takes a back seat with these silly emotive issues.

The whole idea of flags on number plates is boarding on the ridiculous.
Simon Watkins, Wales, UK

I just think it looks nice!
Peter Bolton, UK in US

See also:

29 Dec 01 | Talking Point
Flags on car plates - right or wrong?
28 Dec 01 | Scotland
Flag day for patriotic drivers
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