SNP'S 'INSULT' T0 UNI0N FLAG; Outrage as Nationalist Chief Condemns 'This Offensive Symbol'

Daily Mail (London), September 24, 1999 | Go to article overview

SNP'S 'INSULT' T0 UNI0N FLAG; Outrage as Nationalist Chief Condemns 'This Offensive Symbol'


Byline: HAMISH MACDONELL

THE SNP was plunged into turmoil last night after a leading MSP shocked the party's annual conference by launching an astonishing attack on the Union Flag.

Andrew Wilson, one of Alex Salmond's closest lieutenants, sparked uproar when he condemned the flag as 'an offensive symbol' associated with the 'worst things in Northern Ireland'.

Last night Mr Wilson was castigated by his political opponents for his controversial comments and was forced to issue an embarrassing apology. In an attempt to defuse the row Mr Wilson, the SNP's finance spokesman, who left the conference immediately afterwards, said: 'I make it absolutely clear that I do not find it offensive when used in the proper way, and I apologise to anyone who has gained any other impression.' Anger over Mr Wilson's outburst dominated the first full day of the SNP conference in Inverness. SNP Leader Alex Salmond refused to be drawn into the escalating row but David McLetchie, the Tory leader, demanded that the SNP leadership distance themselves from what he described as a 'chilling and disgraceful statement', warning that failure to do so would act as a spur for political extremism.

Scottish Secretary John Reid reacted furiously, reminding Mr Wilson of the millions of Scots who had fought and died under the Union Flag to provide the freedom the SNP MSP now enjoyed.

Dr Reid said: 'My father fought in World War ll and his two brothers died in that conflict.

Tens of thousands of other Scots also fought, died and were imprisoned in both world wars fighting for Britain.' He added: 'These comments are an attack on millions of decent Scots and the flag of their country. In their desperation to divorce us from the rest of Britain, the Nationalists display their contempt for the values and identity of the great majority of Scots.

This time they have gone a step too far.' Even some members of the SNP were quick to distance themselves from Mr Wilson's remarks. 'I think that was a very unwise thing to say,' said one delegate. …

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