Blue Flag with White X: Scotland Flag History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Flag of Scotland
© astudio/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Gaeng

Published: January 14, 2023

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The Saltire, or St. Andrew’s cross, is Scotland’s national flag. It has a design that is both basic and stunning and is one of the earliest flags in the world. The oldest documented use of the flag dates back to around 1542 when a heraldic flag was depicted in Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount’s Register of Scottish Arms. Queen Margaret, the wife of James III, is supposed to have created a flag in the late 15th century with a white saltire in the center of a blue flag. In this article, we will explore the flag of Scotland, including its history, meaning, and symbolism.

The History of the Flag of Scotland

flag of Scotland

The flag of Scotland is a white St. Andrews Cross on a blue field.

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St. Andrew, also known as “the first to be an Apostle,” is credited for converting Scotland to Christianity in the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath. The Guardians of Scotland used a seal from 1286 that depicted St. Andrew being crucified on a decussate (X form) cross, but such images appeared on Scottish seals as early as 1180. In the 1297-1328 period, Bishop William de Lamberton also used a seal depicting a saint on the cross.

Although it is commonly associated with Saint Andrew, the saltire was actually employed as a field sign in the Middle Ages. It is possible that the association with the field sign and the saint’s crucifixion in legend began in Scotland in the late 14th century. Every Scottish and French soldier fighting against the English under Richard II “shall have a sign before and behind, namely a white St. Andrew’s Cross,” as decreed by the Parliament of Scotland in 1385.

According to legend, James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas, flew a pennon (long triangular flag) with a saltire at the hoist during the Battle of Otterburn (1388). Similar to the “Blue Blanket of the Trades of Edinburgh,” which was purportedly made by Queen Margaret (the wife of James III) a white saltire was displayed in the canton (1451–1488). Riding of the Marches is an annual ritual in Edinburgh, and this flag represents the city’s Incorporated Trades.

The flag of Scotland was formally adopted in the 15th century and remains in use today. The carrack Great Michael was the first to fly the white St. Andrews cross on a blue field in 1507. This design first appears in a heraldic context in the 1542 armorial of David Lyndsay.

The Lion Rampant Flag – Scotland’s Second Flag

lion rampant flag

The

lion

rampant flag is the Queen of Scotland’s official flag and is also considered Scotland’s secondary flag.

©Serge Cornu/Shutterstock.com

The “Lion Rampant” or Royal Banner of the Royal Arms of Scotland is the Queen’s official flag in Scotland. This flag is gold with a crimson rampant lion and royal ornamental border. The Queen is not the only royalty who can use the Banner; any of Her Majesty’s Great Officers may do so in their own capacity. 

Now that the flag is widely accepted as Scotland’s secondary flag and is commonly seen at sporting events and sold in gift stores, it is quite improbable that anyone would be prosecuted for flying it. However, it is important to note that the Saltire, a white cross on a blue field, is the national flag of Scotland and should be recognized as such.

The Flag of Scotland Design

The national flag of Scotland is a white saltire superimposed on a blue field. The X-shaped cross is called a “saltire” in heraldry, which comes from the old French word saultoir (salteur), which can mean either a stile made of two cross parts or a stirrup cord with an X-shaped end.

The backdrop of the Saltire flag has changed color from light blue to dark blue due to the use of different dyes. There were eventually proposals to standardize the color of the Scottish flag in response to these color discrepancies. Scotland’s Parliament settled on Pantone 300, a beautiful rich blue that’s distinct from the royal blue of the British flag, as the official color for the flag in 2003.

The Flag of Scotland Symbolism

flag of Scotland

The flag of Scotland represents Saint Andrew and the cross he was crucified on.

©brunacanavezi/Shutterstock.com

The flag of Scotland is blue with a white X (a saltire) that represents Scotland’s patron saint, Saint Andrew. Saint Andrew’s Cross or “the Saltire” is the name given to the flag. St. Andrew asked to be crucified on a saltire rather than a cross because he did not feel worthy to suffer the same fate as Jesus Christ. The flag’s design was inspired by the cross, which was crafted from white wood, with Saint Andrew, who wore a blue robe.

Supporters of Scottish independence frequently display the Saltire flag, which was used by those who voted “Yes” in the 2014 independence referendum. Supporters of the “No” campaign wave the Union Flag to show that they want Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

A minority of Scots, however, consider both the union flag and the saltire to be legitimate symbols of national identity, and they are content with their status as a constituent nation within the United Kingdom.

Click here to learn about every single flag in the world!

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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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