Last modified: 2012-01-21 by rob raeside
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2:3 (also used in other dimensions); image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 2006
The Scottish Parliaments education, culture and sport committee has set the optimum shade of blue for the flag
as Pantone 300 (), azure, or sky-blue.
The committees decision is only advisory and it will have to go to Jim Wallace,
the justice minister, for ratification. The subject first came to the Scottish
Parliament in 2000 when George Reid, a retired accountant, submitted a petition
to the public petitions committee. Later that year, the education committee
considered the petition and decided it was not a devolved matter and that
Members of the Scottish Parliament were therefore powerless to act. At a later
stage, however, Scotlands heraldic authority, the Lord Lyon King of Arms,
suggested it was within Holyroods powers and Mr Reid petitioned Holyrood a
second time. Mike Russell, MSP for south of Scotland region noted that the
committees verdict would have no statutory force but would amount to "a pretty
Extracts from The Scotsman, 19 February 2002
Iain Sutherland, 22 February, 2002
Before this there is no official Pantone colour for the Scottish flag. In 1998 the Flag Institute recommended Pantone 300 () for the blue, but often an even lighter shade, such as Pantone 299 (), is used in actual flags. The important fact is that it should be lighter than the dark blue used in the Union Flag.
Graham Bartram, 17 March 1998
The colour of the blue on the saltire today is usually Pantone 279 () (UN blue). Lord Lyon uses "ultramarine blue with added white".
Graham Bartram, 26 July 2001
Although the shade is lighter than the dark blue of the United Kingdom flag, it
is more like the normal blue seen on flags around the world. Perhaps the most
accurate version would be to use the blue shown for the Shetland flag (Pantone
300 ) - the two flags are
identical shades when seen flying together.
Ken Bagnall, 25 September 2002
In 'The Story of the Scottish Flag' by McMillan and
Stewart (1925) it is suggested that the flag used to be sky blue, and that
indigo blue [commonly in use in the early 20th Century] was adopted to meet the
needs of sailors for a fast colour before the invention of modern fast dyes of a
lighter shade. Quoting Sir Herbert Maxwell, 'one of our foremost Scottish
historical authorities', "It is to be regretted that flag makers use, not a
heraldic azure, but navy blue, which shows almost black against the sky, thus
obscuring the celestial origin of the ensign."
In 1937, the flag makers Edgington asked the Admiralty for the correct shade of blue for the field of St Andrew's cross after having a batch, ordered for the coronation, returned for being the wrong shade. (ADM 1/9118 in Public Record Office at Kew.) The Scottish Office quoted Lyon King of Arms as saying it should be azure which was a light blue. He did not consider the "blue-black" sometimes used in Union Flags as blue, and would refuse to pass it as azure on a Coat of Arms.
Pattern T.812. Blue, Azure.
T.813. (formerly 61A) Blue, Intermediate.
T.814. Royal Blue.
Azure described as "bright blue" by Sir Hebert Maxwell who said it should be 61A which he called Saxe Blue.
If it still exists the Saint Andrew Society of Glasgow may have some information on the subject.
David Prothero, 25 July 2002
By tradition the flag is based on a saltire-cross of St Andrew which appeared
in the form of clouds in the sky above a battle between the Scots and the Saxons.
This encouraged the Scots to victory and ever since the 'sky-blue' flag with a
white saltire has been the national flag.
Graham Bartram, 17 March 1998
|3:5 dimensions||1:2 dimensions|
both images by António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 2006
Shown at the top of this page, the flag in 2:3 dimensions. The flag is also
flown in 3:5 dimensions as per MoD recommendation, and 1:2 as per customary
António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 2006
3:4, image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 2006
Lord Lyon's recommendations for dimensions of the flag are 3:4.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 30 May 2006
The new Edition of BR20, issued by the Ministry of Defence (and
based on a recommendation of the London College of Arms), will show construction
details with a ratio of 3:5. The office of the Lord Lyon
(King of Arms) recommends 4:5, whilst the St Andrews Society of Glasgow
issued specifications (unfortunately undated) which show 2:3. In all cases the
width of the saltire is equal to one-fifth the width of the flag (as in the
current Union Jack).note 3.
Christopher Southworth, 12 July 2004
The Saltires I have seen on buildings are probably a ratio of
1:2. This approximate ratio with a fairly thin cross, brings out the beauty and
true proportions of the Cross of St. Andrew.
Thomas Murray, 12 July 2004
I'm sure the 1:2 ratio Mr. Murray has seen results from the fact
that the more or less official ratio of the Union Jack is 1:2, and that British
flag-makers presumably use that as a default ratio. The 4:5 quoted on the page,
Scottish flag: Lord Lyon's recommendations comes
from the Scottish heraldic authority, Lyon Court. Predictably, Lyon Court shows
a predilection for following heraldic rather than naval tradition, and its
prescribed ratio for heraldic flags hoisted over houses, etc., is 4:5.
Joe McMillan, 12 July 2004
It's worth noting that when flags appear as part of coats of
arms, either being flown by a demi-beast in the crest or from lymphads in the
body of a shield, the flags are usually much squarer than 'real' flags usually
are - 4:5 sounds like it might be the ratio used for these flag depictions,
which could well be where the idea of a 4:5 flag came from.
James Dignan, 12 July 2004
The Saltire flying from a flag-pole on top a building owned by
my local council is probably a ratio of 1:2. There are at least 3 similar
Saltires on at least 3 hotels in Perth. There are 2 cheaper looking Saltires
flying from flag-poles outside Perth library. These are at least 3:5, probably
greater. In Edinburgh there many Saltires, flying over official buildings at
probably 1:2. These expensive 1:2 Saltires in Perth and Edinburgh appear to
probably be the same design and possibly the same manufacturer. 1:2 seems to
have become the semi-official ratio standard.
Thomas Murray, 16 July 2004
There is no fixed dimension for the flag of Scotland - the St
Andrew's Society of Glasgow suggests 2:3, Lord Lyon King of Arms recommends 4:5
and BR20 (Flags of All Nations) proposes 3:5. In addition quite a number are
actually made in 1:2.
Graham Bartram, 6 December 2004
The Scottish Flag Trust uses flags at Athelstaneford (birthplace
of the national flag) that have been manufactured by James Stevenson (Flags) Ltd.
of Glasgow. The main flag is at the Saltire Memorial, and is flown permanently
and floodlit at night. The Trust flies Saltires in the ratio 4:5, in line with
the guidance in the Flag Code. A secondary flag, a Saltire vimpel, is flown at
the viewpoint next to the Heritage Centre which overlooks the site of the
David Williamson, Scottish Flag Trust Chairman, 18 December 2007
In December 2006 I e-mailed the Scottish Flag Trust, about their
support for 4:5, which was on their
website. I informed
them that the flag flown at Athelstaneford, was not 4:5. Furthermore, that their
leaflets had a photo (at latest 2003) that was not of a 4:5 Saltire, although, I
have not been there since 2003. The chairman e-mailed that they would look into
the matter. It is possible that my e-mail, prompted them to use 4:5. This
website, shows the leaflet:
Thomas Murray, 18 December 2007
The book British Flags & Emblems
by Graham Bartram, states that in "1687" "11:18" was "specifiednote1"
for the "Union Flag". Furthermore Michael Faul of the Flag Institute, confirmed
that 11:18 was the correct ratio.
4:5 = 1:1.25
11:18 = 1:1.6363
3:5 = 1:1.6666
11:18 is actually slightly closer to 1:2 (+0.3636) than 4:5 (-0.3863). Therefore, according to the argument that the length to height ratio of the Saltire should be based closely on the ratio of the Union Flag from 1606 to 1707, it follows that 11:18 or more sensibly its closest modern ratio 3:5, should be the standard, if one supports this argument.Note2
I do not see why a standard ratio for the Saltire of present day and for the future should be based closely on the ratio of the Union Flag of 300 to 400 years ago. Only Monaco officially uses 4:5. Even then its national flag is "almost invariably" "displayed in" "2:3". The Vatican City has an official ratio of 1:1. Such squarish shaped flags are highly unusual. In my opinion, this argument is a feeble excuse by Scottish heraldists to justify their preference for 4:5 (1:1.25); i.e. heraldic tradition. For example, James Stevenson (Flags) Ltd deem their "4x3 ft" (1:1.33) Saltire to be "ceremonial". Reasons to support 1:2 are:
Note 2: Who, one must ask, argues thus? I
have never heard it, and in any case, the only official image we have of the
1606 Pattern of Union Flag (at least of which I am aware) is that which dates
from 1707 and is reproduced in Perrin (Plate IV) which shows a saltire narrower
than the St George which is in turn narrow than on the modern flag? In addition
Tim Wilson (Flags at Sea) suggests that the proportion of jacks was shorter than
that of ensigns, which together makes a nonsense not only of any such
proposition (with which he doesn't agree in any case) but also of his whole
The Scottish legislature may well go ahead and confirm (as per the recent bill) 4:5 as the official ratio of the saltire, but British manufacturers will continue to make (and customers will continue to buy) flags in 2:3, 3:5 and 1:2 as they have for who knows how many years?
Christopher Southworth, 18 February 2008
Note 3: I e-mailed the Scottish Parliament's
Public Information Service. Reply from a Mr Richard Doherty, 25 September 2008,
"to the very best of my knowledge the Scottish Parliament has made no ruling on
- and is not due to consider - the ratio of the Saltire." Since in the
e-mail from the Scottish Parliament's Public Information Service it only
specifically stated that Bills had been looked at. Therefore, to be doubly sure
I searched the Public Petitions, that are still open and not closed. Nothing
could be found, relating to this matter.
Regarding my arguments in support of 1:2. It has been pointed out to me, that the Flag of Russia no longer has an official ratio of 1:2.
Thomas Murray, 26 September 2008
Of the Scottish Flag manufacturers I can find, one Scottish
manufacturer produces the Saltire as follows: 1:2 Sewn woven polyester in seven
sizes, 1:2 Printed Woven Polyester in three sizes, 1:2 Knitted Printed Polyester
in three sizes, 2:3 Sewn Woven Polyester in one size, 3:4 Sewn Woven Polyester
in one size. Another Scottish manufacturer produces the Saltire as follows: 1:2
Sewn Woven Polyester in seven sizes, 3:5 Economy in one size, 5:8 Economy in one
size, 2:3 Economy in one size. Yet another Scottish manufacturer produces the
Saltire as follows: 1:2 "quality" in two sizes.
Thomas Murray, 30 October 2007
In the book British Flags & Emblems, it states that "land flags are normally 3:5". However, at the present time; the vast majority of quality (non-economy) Saltires made in Scotland and the rest of the UK are produced in 1:2. As far as I am aware non-custom-made quality 3:5 Saltires, are not produced in Scotland. The only reason for this I can think of is that although 3:5 and 1:2 are fairly different, there is not enough of a difference to produce non-custom made quality 3:5 Saltires. The only other ratios of quality Saltires I have seen, advertised made in Scotland are 2:3 in one size "6x4ft" "72x48in" and 3:4 in one size "4x3ft" "Ceremonial".
House of Flags, Cambridgeshire, produces "0.68mx 1.20m"
(1:1.7647) quality Saltires - approximately 4:7 (1:1.75). So, I assume 3:5
(1:1.666) is what it is probably meant to be, though they claim that a
"1.0mx1.6m" flag is "2:3" (1:1.5) when actually it is 5:8 (1:1.6)
Ratios of Saltires that are actually manufactured in Scotland, which I have found:
James Stevenson (Flags) Ltd, Glasgow,
leading flagmakers" "now the main truly independent and self-financed flagmakers
1:2 ratio, Sewn Woven Polyester, (Seven sizes), 18x9, 36x18, 54x27, 72x36, 90x45, 108x54, 144x72 (inches).
1:2 ratio, Printed Woven Polyester, (Three sizes), 36x18, 54x27, 72x36 (inches).
1:2 ratio, Printed Knitted Polyester, (Three sizes), 36x18, 54x27, 72x36 (inches).
2:3 ratio, Sewn Woven Polyester, "Special Sizes", (One size), "6x4ft".
3:4 ratio, Sewn Woven Polyester, "Ceremonial" "complete with fringe", (One size), "4x3ft".
3:5 ratio, Economy, (One size), "5x3ft".
Flags of the World, Stranraer.
"Clients" "The Scottish Executive".
1:2 ratio, "Quality Sewn" "woven polyester" "2:1 ratio", (Seven sizes), 1 yd, 1.5 yd, 2 yd (£37.50), 2.5 yd, 3 yd, 4 yd, 5 yd.
3:5 ratio, "Economy Flags" "5ft x 3 ft Polyester Display" (One size) (£5.95).
5:8 ratio, "8ft x 5ft Giant Polyester Display Flag" (One size) (£17.50).
2:3 ratio, "3ft x 2ft Polyester Display Flag" (One size) (£4.50).
"MAGELLAN FLAGS", East Linton, East Lothian.
http://www.magellan-flags.com/magellan-item.php?code=506 "quality flags" "member of the FLAG INSTITUTE" "MoD specification flags".
1:2 ratio (Two sizes) "3ft x 1.5ft", "6ft x 3ft".
Hi-Fli Banners & Flags, Kirriemuir.
Their flags are "custom made". Though the standard ratio is 1:2 and size "6'x3' ". 1:2 ratio, Quality in two grades "125gsm" and "110gsm" (One size) "6'x3' ".
1:2 ratio, Economy (One size) "6'x3' ".
To sum up:
Of the Scottish Flag manufacturers I can find, one Scottish manufacturer produces the Saltire as follows: 1:2 Sewn woven polyester in seven sizes, 1:2 Printed Woven Polyester in three sizes, 1:2 Knitted Printed Polyester in three sizes, 2:3 Sewn Woven Polyester in one size, 3:4 Sewn Woven Polyester in one size, 3:5 Economy in one size. Another Scottish manufacturer produces the Saltire as follows: 1:2 Sewn Woven Polyester in seven sizes, 3:5 Economy in one size, 5:8 Economy in one size, 2:3 Economy in one size. Another Scottish manufacturer produces the Saltire as follows: 1:2 "quality" in two sizes. Another Scottish manufacturer produces the Saltire as follows: 1:2 as the standard ratio. 1:2 Quality in 2 grades in one size, 1:2 Economy in one size.
Thomas Murray, 26 September 2008