NHS deny ‘bias’ over removal of hospital saltire

The Saltire is gone from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Picture: Gareth Easton

The Saltire is gone from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Picture: Gareth Easton

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CLAIMS the Saltire was ­removed from the grounds of Royal Edinburgh Hospital amid fears of it would imply bias towards Scottish independence has been denied by health chiefs.

Scotland’s national flag was withdrawn from the Morningside centre this week in reaction to a complaint of favouritism towards the Yes camp, insiders have claimed.

But NHS bosses said the timing was purely “coincidental” and the flag had been temorarily removed to size up a new hospital banner that will be flown alongside it.

Nationalists branded the ­explanation a “little bit implausible” and said the response was one of the more curious excuses dreamt up by the PR department.

Marco Biagi MSP, SNP represenative for Edinburgh Central, said: “I’m not an expert on flags, but surely they must be able to find the weight and measurement of a flag without taking it down.

“It’s one of the more bizarre reasons I have heard from an institutional PR department.

“It seems strange that anyone should think flying a nation’s flag is a political statement, other than to say this institution is in that country. Union Jacks and Saltires are flying from buildings all over Scotland.”

Its conspicuous absence – days after a grievance was lodged – caused a furore among local residents who said “only in Scotland” would ­someone complain about flying the ­national flag. One woman, who did not want to be named, said the flag gripe was just “ludicrous”.

“I cannot believe somebody complained about the Saltire flying and the next thing we know, it’s been taken down,” she said. For people to be complaining about that flying in our Capital the time of the Commonwealth Games – whether it’s in support of the referendum or Scottish athletes – I think it is ridiculous.”

Tim Montgomery, director of operations at Royal Edinburgh and Associated Services, confirmed a complaint had been made about a Saltire in the grounds but it had been lowered to “create a new special commemoration flag” for a summer fete. He said: “As soon as the ­Saltire is returned, it will be back flying proudly again and the new hospital flag, which has been designed with the help of patients, will be unveiled for the fete on August 8.”

In 2012, a row broke out over whether the Saltire should be raised above the Union flag at Edinburgh Castle. And five years ago, the National Library of Scotland ordered an ­employee to remove a number of blue-and-white flags and a Lion Rampant from his desk because it was deemed “inappropriate material” for the workplace and “offensive” to non-Scottish ­employees.

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com