Veteran ordered by council to remove Saltire flag

Richard Cowe says his Saltire brightens up the dark days. Picture: Jon Savage
Richard Cowe says his Saltire brightens up the dark days. Picture: Jon Savage
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A PATRIOTIC army veteran has declared war on the council – over his right to fly the Saltire.

Ex-soldier Richard Cowe, of Kingsknowe Place, Longstone, was left reeling after city chiefs ordered him to remove the flagpole he erected on the grass outside his council flat.

Officials claim the flag had attracted complaints from irritated neighbours over the noise it makes as it flutters in the wind.

But Mr Cowe, who served in the 1st Battalion of The King’s Own Scottish Borderers for 12 years and was given a medal for his efforts in Northern Ireland, insists residents back his right to fly Scotland’s flag – and has even launched a petition to fight his case.

The 60-year-old said: “There appears to be no appeal against the council’s decision. They have given no real reason for its removal – except that it may interfere with the grass cutting, which seems a pretty lame excuse.”

His petition has attracted 22 signatures so far, but the Saltire could face removal shortly after St Andrew’s Day at the end of the month.

And planning chiefs have warned that Mr Cowe could be liable for the costs if they have to remove it themselves.

Mr Cowe, who lives with his wife Kathy, 62, said he was moved to erect the pole after seeing Saltire flags around West Lothian, where he works as a caretaker for the council. And after noticing the Greek flag being flown from shops and houses while on his honeymoon in Crete this September, he decided to do something similar when he returned to Scotland.

He said: “I’m proud of my country. I’m very patriotic and it’s good to be patriotic. My wife is English – from Manchester – and she’s even more patriotic than me.

“She’s an adopted Scot and she’s really disappointed about this. As Scots we should be as proud of our national flag as the Greeks are of theirs.

“But it looks like we’re going to have to take it down, unless there’s a turnaround and the council decide to be even-handed about it.

He added: “When I erected it, I was careful that it didn’t obstruct anybody’s window and wasn’t in anybody’s way. I think they’ve got the discretion to allow it if they want to, but they’re not budging.

“It’s Scotland’s capital city – you would expect to see the flag in the capital city. It’s not something I ever thought I would need planning permission for or anything like that – it’s just a flag.

“Seeing our flag flying really brightens the place up, especially on these cold dark winter days, and it really cheers you up to see it.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We received some complaints from local residents about the flagpole, particularly in relation to the noise it makes. “As it occupies shared land, we have asked Mr Cowe to take it down.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com