SBC and sensibility – poles apart

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Flags play an important part of life in the Borders. So far this year I have seen them carried with much pride at Selkirk Common Riding, Peebles Beltane and on Saturday at the Braw Lads’ Gathering.

I’m afraid I missed out on Hawick and have never witnessed the spectacle at the West Linton Whipman Play, but I am told that the pride and passion in that small Peeblesshire village is as great as anywhere else in our Borderland.

Flags have yet to be carried by the Jethart Callant, Kelso Laddie, Duns Reiver, Langholm Cornet, Lauder Cornet and Coldstreamer.

All these flags and banners mean something special to those who rally round them. They carry our heritage and history – some of it pretty bloody, I have to admit.

They are badges of our past; they are our present, a reminder that we have rights and privileges, some hard won and not to be taken for granted, others to enjoy.

And they are, in a way, our hopes for the future.

Each banner tells a story that should be respected by all who bear it witness – whether it is from your town or not. And in the Borders were are fortunate that that protocol is universally adhered to. There is inter-town banter and friendly rivalry. But alongside that there is respect. And that is as it should be.

A few years ago in my native Galashiels, I was standing at the Scott Park Gates awaiting the stroll to the war memorial for the act of homage. A weel-kent Hawick worthy looked a bit lost. He’d never seen our act of homage before, so he joined our company.

And as the burgh banner was dipped by the Braw Lad on horseback and the silence broken by the chiming of “Braw Braw Lads”, there were tears in his eyes. Such can be the impact of flags and banners.

Ask anyone who has served in the armed forces about pride in colours and pennants.

I am a defender of the use of flags. But I can’t but think that Scottish Borders Council is flying in the face of sensibility over plans for three poles at its HQ in Newtown St Boswells.

It’s a costly plan that doesn’t – shall we say – put the council in pole position at a time of austerity.

Of course different flags should be flown for different occasions. But even Buck House only has one pole. If it’s good enough for the Queen it is good enough for SBC.

On Saturday I will see another flag carried during the hilarious Copshaw Common Riding. This blue and silver symbol of enjoyment is emblazoned with the legend “Purious Bunkumous”.

But it also sums up SBC’s three-pole plan.