Comment: Anti-English behaviour is unacceptable

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Heard the one about the Englishman who flew a flag in front of some easily offended Scotsmen on Leith Walk?

Today’s story about the police and council officials being dragged into a row about a barber flying the St George’s Cross outside his shop sounds like a joke. And, in many ways, treating it as one is perhaps the best response.

It would be wrong to read too much into it. This is not a sign of widespread antipathy towards the English in the Capital. That is simply not what Edinburgh is like. This was just the actions of a few idiots on one street.

Yet no-one who has lived long in the city will be surprised to see an element who think it is acceptable to dish out abuse in such circumstances. They wouldn’t respond to any other flag like that, but somehow for a sad minority the national flag of our English neighbours provokes a Neanderthal reaction.

And when they behave like that it is really important that the rest of us stand up and make it clear that it is not acceptable.

There is nothing inherently offensive about the St George’s flag. It is just a flag. And barber Keith Hales was not charging down the street with it, brandishing it like a weapon. He was just flying it outside his shop – ironically, as part of a festival celebrating the diverse nationalities on cosmopolitan Leith Walk.

A Scotsman flying a Saltire in London ahead of last night’s “Auld Enemy” clash would expect – and probably hope – to get some stick from the locals. Cruel jokes, mock hatred, tongue-in-cheek insults – they’re all okay. But the one thing that he would expect is a little respect. An Englishman doing the same thing in Edinburgh has every right to expect the same.

It comes down to a question of our values, and what kind of city – and country – we want to be. We should be celebrating those traditional Scottish values of tolerance and hospitality – not putting up with small-minded bigotry.