Scotland's national flag - the Saltire

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  • The Scottish flag, the Saltire, flying above Athelstaneford Church, Haddington
    The Saltire, flying above Athelstaneford Church, Haddington
  • Fans wave Saltire flags during a rugby match at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
    Fans at a rugby match at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
  • A Saltire flag blowing in the breeze
    A Saltire flag
  • A crowd stands with their Saltire flags watching a piper play the bagpipes
    A crowd with their Saltire flags
  • Saltire flags are waved above the crowd at T in the Park, Balado, Perthshire
    Saltire flags at T in the Park, Balado, Perthshire

The Saltire, Scotland’s national flag, is steeped in history and legend and is thought to be the oldest national flag in Europe.

The Saltire is the national flag of Scotland and, with a white diagonal cross on a blue background, it represents the crucifixion of the apostle St Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint.

Believed to be the oldest flag in Europe, the origin of the flag comes from an old legend. Tradition has it that the flag originated in a battle fought near the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford in AD 832.

An army of Picts and Scots under King Angus invaded the Lothians (at that time still Northumbrian territory), and found itself surrounded by a larger force of Saxons led by Athelstan. Fearing the outcome, King Angus led prayers for deliverance and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white Saltire against the blue sky.

The king vowed that if, with the saint’s help, he gained victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did win, and the Saltire eventually became the flag of Scotland.

In 2003 the Scottish Parliament specified the official colour of the flag using the international colour coding system and it was decided that the white St Andrew's Cross should appear on an azure background known as Pantone 300.

Along with the royal flag, the Lion Rampant, the Saltire can be seen flying with gusto in the crowds of international sporting events, on churches and on national and local government offices.

Uncover more about Scotland’s national flag at the National Flag Heritage Centre in Athelstaneford in East Lothian.

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