< Back to front page Text size +

If Scotland splits, does the Union Jack need a makeover?

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  January 20, 2014 10:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

On September 14, Scotland will hold a national referendum about whether to leave the United Kingdom and become an independent country. If independence is approved, it would raise a host of questions- everything from what currency the new country would use to who would qualify for Scottish citizenship- and it could also trigger a redesign of the iconic Union Jack. English and Scottish colors came together on the British flag 400 years ago, when England and Scotland merged, and the red (English) cross of St. George was combined with the blue and white (Scottish) cross of St. Andrew. If Scotland splits, however, it might take its colors with it, and a UK organization called the Flag Institute recently solicited ideas for a redesigned British flag. Some proposals called for swapping Scottish colors for the red dragon and green bar of the flag of Wales; others kept the basic idea of the Union Jack while moving the design in a more modern, geometric direction. The flag question is fun to think about, but the exercise is likely to be purely academic: An independent Scotland would retain ties to the monarchy (just not the UK state) and, according to a recent BBC article, most observers predict that, in typical British fashion, the Union Jack will go on as if nothing's really changed.

Correction 1/21: The first version of this post included two errors. It incorrectly labeled the red English cross as the cross of St. Andrew and the blue and white Scottish cross as the cross of St. George, when in fact it's the reverse: St. George belongs to England and St. Andrew belongs to Scotland. It also stated, incorrectly, that the current version of the British flag dates back 400 years. As a reader pointed out, though, the current version dates to 1801, when the Irish cross of St. Patrick was added to the Scottish and English crosses.




Images courtesy of the Flag Institute.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


Browse this blog

by category