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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
Anger over car plate change
Number plates
These plates will be illegal from 1 September
Scottish drivers have been told to replace their distinctive Saltire number plates before traveling to the continent this year.

A change in regulations means that special plates, which have "SCO", the Scottish flag and European Union flag on them, will be banned from 1 September.

All cars registered in the UK can carry the letters GB and the European Union symbol.

The Automobile Association (AA) said it hoped that police would clamp down on people who had radically altered their number plates but the Scottish National Party (SNP) labelled the decision as "marketing madness".

Neil Greig
Neil Greig: "Acceptable symbol"
The new regulations coincide with the introduction of new style British number plates on Saturday.

Neil Greig, head of policy at the AA in Scotland, warned motorists with old style plates to change them and urged police to clamp down on those who flout the new regulations.

Mr Greig said: "In bringing in the new registration plates, the DVLA took the opportunity to clarify the position with regard to these euro plates.

"In international law, the only acceptable symbol that covers Scotland is GB, so SCO, Alba and Ecosse has no international standing at all.

"Our advice, particularly for Scots driving abroad, is don't rely on an SCO plate because some countries in Europe are quite hot on enforcing these regulations and GB is the only acceptable thing to have on your number plate.

Legal terms

"We sympathise with people's need to express their Scottishness, but we have to tell our members the information in legal terms, which is don't have an SCO plate because you could fall foul of the law."

He added: "We're not expecting the police to overnight start pulling people over and booking them for having the incorrect number plate because that would be an enormous waste of their time.

"But a few years down the line, cars may fail their MoT if they have tampered in any way with their registration plate."

Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill: "Marketing madness"
The SNP has blamed the Scottish Executive for failing to take steps to preserve the SCO plates.

The party's enterprise spokesman, Kenny MacAskill, said: "It's marketing madness and legislative lunacy. Scotland is an image that we must project in every shape and form and to outlaw the opportunity for tens of thousands of Scots to take the image on their number plates to the continent is absurd.

"When we should be selling Scotland the brand, they're giving us Scotland the banned.

"The executive has got to stand up for Scotland. They've had the opportunity to ensure Scotland remains a distinct brand image and they're not doing so.

'Legislative lunacy'

"You can have a nodding dog in the back of your car that does nothing for Scotland as a nation, but you can't put SCO on your number plates to fly the flag and promote Scotland."

Mr MacAskill said he was angry that countries such as Luxembourg and Lichtenstein and even the Vatican City are able to display their symbols on their number plates, but not Scotland.

He added: "Drivers are going to be angry that this legislative lunacy is impeding their personal choice.

The display of registration marks is controlled to ensure that they can be read easily by enforcement cameras

Scottish Executive spokeswoman
"There have to be laws for public safety and police enforcement, but to ban SCO is crazy."

But a spokeswoman for the executive said car registration was a matter reserved to the Westminster Parliament.

She added: "The DVLA has the lead on this matter. The display of registration marks is controlled to ensure that they can be read easily by enforcement cameras.

"Permitting further variations could lead to enforcement difficulties and have been opposed by the police. No other symbols or emblems will therefore be allowed.

"Of course, any symbol or emblem may be displayed on the vehicle providing it does not form part of the number plate or obscure the registration mark."

BBC Scotland's Elizabeth Quigley
"Big changes are happening from Saturday"
See also:

17 Feb 99 | UK
Number's up for car crooks
15 Nov 98 | UK
G1 FTS on a plate
17 Jul 98 | UK
Driving passions
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