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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK


UK Politics

MSP apologies over flag remark

"Union Jack is offensive symbol" of colonialism, Mr Wilson said

A Scottish National Party MSP has apologised after he described the Union Flag as an "offensive symbol".

Andrew Wilson, the shadow finance minister in the Scottish Parliament, had told a fringe meeting at his party's conference in Inverness that the flag referred to colonialism.

Conference99
Scottish Secretary John Reid called the remarks offensive to the memory of servicemen and women.

Mr Wilson told the meeting: "The Union Jack is an offensive symbol which does not refer to anything other than colonialism and some of the worst things happening in Northern Ireland."

But after attacks from Labour and the Conservatives, Mr Wilson issued an apology.

He said: "When the Union Jack is misused at any time - for example as it has been by the far right - it can be offensive."


[ image: Andrew Wilson: Not offended by the flag]
Andrew Wilson: Not offended by the flag
Mr Wilson continued: "I make it absolutely clear that I do not find it offensive when used in the proper way, and I apologise to anyone who has gained any other impression."

He said he was not personally offended by the flag but "some people are."

Earlier, Mr Reid said that the SNP were displaying "their contempt for the values and identity of the great majority of Scots".

He said: "This time they have gone a step too far. My father fought in the Second World War and his two brothers died in that conflict.

"Tens of thousands of other Scots also fought, died and were imprisoned in the two world wars fighting for Britain.


[ image: John Reid:
John Reid: "A step too far"
"It is one thing to be Scots and proud of it. It is quite another thing for the nationalists - living in the freedom created by those men and women - to drag that flag into the dirt."

Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie described the comments as "dangerous and irresponsible" and called on the SNP to disown the remarks.

Mr Wilson hit back at the Scottish secretary, saying: "John Reid's distortion of my remarks is contemptible, and is the worst and most shabby type of gutter politics.

"He should apologise for exploiting peoples sacrifice for political ends."

'Saltire over Scotland'

"Scotland's flag is, of course, the Saltire and that is what I want to see flying over Scotland now and in the future."

Mr Wilson's speech had called for the SNP to feel less threatened by the British institutions that would remain after independence.

He said the party could do more to appeal to those alarmed by the prospect of independence.

Mr Wilson told the meeting that young Scots felt Scottish not British but said the older generation did identify with Britain.

The challenge, he said, was to persuade the two-thirds of Scots who do not back the SNP by easing fears about independence and countering Labour's claims of traumatic "divorce" from the rest of the UK.

Mr Wilson also said Scotland should break only the political union with the rest of the UK but maintain social and economic links.





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