MOSCOW, September 18 (RIA Novosti) – As Scotland is voting in a historic referendum on possible independence from the UK, one potential casualty of the Scottish battle for nationhood remains behind the scenes: the well-known Union Jack.
After having served as the national flag of the United Kingdom for over four centuries, the flag is now at risk of being re-designed, if the majority of Scotland votes "Yes".
The current national Union Jack dates back to 1801, when its original design from 1606 was amended to incorporate the red diagonal lines of the Irish cross of St. Patrick following the union of Great Britain and Ireland.
Thus, the banner combines aspects of the British Isles' three oldest national flags: the red cross of St. George of the Kingdom of England, the white saltire of St. Andrew for Scotland and the red saltire of St. Patrick for Ireland.
The older, pre-1801 design of 1606, with its two elements reflected the regal union between England and Scotland under James VI of Scotland, who had inherited the English and Irish thrones in 1603. In that year, he was crowned James I of England and united the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland in a personal union, although all the three remained separate states. Thus, the Scottish element is one of the two oldest on the flag.
The British media heavy-weights The Guardian and the BBC have already come up with their designs of a post-independence national symbol.
All of their guesses are based on the withdrawal of the Scottish white saltire and the blue background. The Guardian reassures admirers of British symbolism that, "according to some constitutional experts, because the current flag technically represents a union of crowns rather than nations, and the Queen would be likely to remain monarch of an independent Scotland, there would be no legal or constitutional reason to stop flying the current flag."
However, Charles Ashburner, chief executive of the Flag Institute - a charity that offers advice and guidance about flags and their usage – supposes that Wales would be quick to step in. It is not currently represented on the flag because it was part of the English Kingdom when the flag was designed.
"That will be the obvious first argument: 'If Scotland's coming out then surely Wales must go in'," BBC quotes Ashburner as saying.
Both media then give possible designs showing how the Union Jack could look if the blue field of the Scottish flag is replaced with the black and yellow strips honoring the Welsh flag of Saint David, a patron saint of Wales (a yellow cross on a black background).
But as the Saint David flag is not as popular as its current national Red Dragon flag (a red dragon passant on a green and white field), the news websites also show possible designs borrowing the symbol of the dragon and the field of green and white behind it.
The issue, however, is expected to remain unclear for some time, even if Scotland says "Yes" to the removal of its national colors from the Union Jack.
Part of the problem, The Guardian quotes Charles Ashburner as saying, is that the current flag "fell into use" rather than ever being formally adopted, so "nobody controls the union flag."
"Successive governments have declined to sort out the constitutional anomaly," he said, "meaning that potentially on Friday morning in the post-apocalyptic nightmare that Scotland is going to have after a yes vote, all these questions are going to come home to roost."