Council flags up equality and an end to ‘bitterness’

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Despite concern over their cost and vulnerability to vandalism, three new flagpoles are to be installed outside

council headquarters.

It took a 16-9 vote of councillors to confirm the decision , which means the Saltire and the Union standard will be flown perpetually and simultaneously at the seat of local government.

The third structure will, on designated commemorative dates, display the flags of the Commonwealth, the European Union and Armed Forces Day outside the main entrance of Scottish Borders Council’s Newtown headquarters.

As expected, joining that “approved” list will be the Rainbow flag, symbolising lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride.

Other flags will also be considered for the third pole, but only at the “discretion” of council convener Graham Garvie, deputy Jim Brown, or chief executive Tracey Logan.

The need for a new flag flying protocol was an acknowledgement the existing policy “did little to further SBC’s equality duties”, according to a report by corporate equality and diversity officer Rosie Kennedy.

The adoption of the Rainbow flag brooked neither dissent nor, indeed, any discussion at the full council meeting. But Councillor Gordon Edgar, the executive member for roads, wanted no truck with any flags, but found no seconder.

“There is no tradition of flag flying in the Borders…yet it costs this council £10,000 a year,” said Mr Edgar. “That’s enough to buy five lorry loads of tar for our roads and I would much rather see the money spent on that.”

Councillor Willie Archibald led the call for no change to the number of flagpoles. “The current high flag at Newtown gives us great visibility and I’m sure the people of Peebles, Eyemouth and Hawick will take a dim view of us spending precious money on this,” he stated.

Council leader David Parker also baulked at spending £2,500 installing the three ground level poles which, he cautioned, would be easy to vandalise.

But support for the three-pole option – at the expense of the structure atop the high tower – came from several quarters, including from Councillor Simon Mountford, who said it was a “pragmatic recognition of the constitutional reality that we are both Scottish and British”.

Councillor Michael Cook agreed, adding: “This gives us the chance to remind ourselves of our commonality and our concentric loyalties and to really reflect the cosmopolitan nature of the Borders. It is a motif for a retreat from bitterness.”