On Wednesday I read a story in The Times about the Scottish Government ordering a change in its flag flying policy, meaning that the only occasion the Union Flag could be flown on Scottish Parliament buildings was on Remembrance Sunday. Previously there were 14 other occasions when it could be flown. Instead, it would now be replaced by the Saltire.
I then tweeted:
“So @NicolaSturgeon has ordered the union flag to be removed from government buildings. Perhaps the UK government should remove the funding which enables her to spend £1500 more per head of population than is spent in England.”
Nicola Sturgeon then tweeted me to say that it was not her decision and nothing had changed since 2010. At the same time Ruth Davidson’s spokesman tweeted screenshots of the change in policy between 2017 and 2018’s guidance notes. It seemed to me that this was fairly convincing.
However, it is now clear that the decision on the flags was taken in 2010 when Alex Salmond was First Minister, but the civil service policy guidance had not been updated in the ensuing seven years.
I still believe that it was wrong for this decision a) to have been taken and b) that it was not made public until now. Obviously as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has to take responsibility for what happens in her government’s name, even if the actual decision was not hers. But I have this morning been in touch with her directly and apologised for tweeting that it was her decision. It is clear now that it was not.
In these circumstances, I am going to delete the original tweet.
One final thing, though. The abuse I have received over the last two days has been something to behold. Luckily I have th skin of a rhino. You might say that since I tweeted something that was wrong I deserved it. All I will say is that it is possible to disagree and call someone out in ways which don’t involve the kind of language and violent abuse that has been freely used by the so-called ‘Cybernats’. I’m sure a lot of it will be repeated in response to this blogpost, but it’s a sad indictment of our public discourse when people who disagree politically can’t have a reasonable exchange. All I would say to them is that if Nicola Sturgeon can have the grace to accept my apology – and she has – then I’d hope that her more vocal supporters can bring themselves to do so as well. I can always live in hope…!