Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hit back at reports that she ordered the Union flag not to be flown from government buildings during royal events.
Several newspapers on Wednesday had stories alleging Ms Sturgeon had changed policy at Holyrood so the flag would only be flown on Remembrance Day this year, rather than royal occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The story was pounced upon by Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson, prompting Ms Sturgeon to accuse her of “peddling fake news”.
Memo to PM’s new ‘fake news’ unit. The first line of defence against fake news is for your own politicians to stop peddling it. https://t.co/TTaeV50pDE
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) January 24, 2018
And in a lengthy thread of posts on Twitter, the First Minister attempted to clarify the Scottish Government’s stance on which flags fly when.
“Since the truth doesn’t seem to matter very much to some, let me set out the facts on this ridiculous story,” she began.
“There are two essential elements to this story. One, that @scotgov has recently changed its practice on what flags to fly from government buildings on Royal occasions; and two, that I ordered that change. Both are wrong.”
She continued: “Since 2010, the Lion Rampant has flown on Royal occasions – entirely appropriately. Since the Lion Rampant is the Royal Banner, it is not clear to me why anyone would object to that. However, the key point is that there has been no change to this since 2010.
“Yes, the civil service recently decided to update the published guidance, but simply to ensure that it accurately reflected the long standing practice – the underlying policy has not changed. And why would it?
“As for the claim that I ordered the change, I have issued no instructions, orders, authorisations – or even expressed an opinion – about changing flag policy. The update of the guidance was an administrative step – albeit a sensible one – and not done at my request.”
Ms Sturgeon’s tweets were backed up by an official Scottish Government statement, which said no change to the policy had been made.
“The current Scottish Government policy on the flying of flags, including the flying of flags on royal occasions, was established in 2010,” it said.
“In line with this policy, the Scottish Government, by Royal Assent, has flown the Royal Banner (the Lion Rampant) and the Saltire on Royal Occasions since 2010. The current First Minister has made no change to the policy.”
Earlier the former First Minister Alex Salmond had waded into the row, insisting it was he who changed the policy at Holyrood in 2010 following a conversation with the Queen at Balmoral the year before.
He said reports that Ms Sturgeon had made the policy change, which left the Union flag flying only on Remembrance Sunday and Armed Forces Day, were “complete piffle”.
“It seemed obvious to me that the appropriate flag to be flown on the occasion of royal birthdays is the Royal Standard or The Lion Rampant,” he said in a statement.
“The only people who can order that to be done are the Queen herself and the First Minister as her representative.
“I remember the occasion very well. Her Majesty asked me if The Lion Rampant was a popular flag in Scotland. I was able to assure her that it was and indeed much beloved of Scottish football and rugby fans.”
A Royal House spokeswoman said they do not comment on the Queen’s private conversations.