THE Union flag is to be flown from the Forth Road Bridge this summer as part of First World War commemorations despite a bid to block the move by nationalists.
The standard will be raised on the landmark for the day on July 28, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War.
With political tensions mounting ahead of the vote on Scotland’s future, SNP councillors have criticised the move as “politically motivated” and questioned the “relevance” of the bridge – which opened 46 years after the First World War ended – being used as a site of commemoration. Unionists claim the issue is being unnecessarily “politicised”.
The flag plan was passed by six votes to two at Friday’s Forth Estuary Transport Authority meeting – with SNP councillors Joe Giacopazzi (Perth & Kinross Council) and Ian Chisholm (Fife) opposed and unionist party members voting it through.
The idea was put forward by Liz Smith MSP, Conservative member for Mid Scotland and Fife, who condemned the Nationalists for not “putting the independence referendum to one side on this issue”.
She said: “I am very disappointed by the fact that both SNP representatives on the Forth Estuary Transport Authority voted against the proposal in a desperate bid to try to block the proposal.
“The centenary anniversary of the First World War is not something which should be politicised.
“I am hugely disappointed that SNP representatives have decided to try to prevent what is I believe a fitting chance to mark the centenary anniversary of the First World War and something which will be seen by thousands of Scots and present them with the opportunity to remember those who gave their lives so that we can live in the freedom we enjoy today.”
Cllr Giacopazzi reportedly criticised the MSP for “trivialising the sacrifice” made by Scotland’s war dead and “playing politics”.
He said: “This has got nothing to do with commemorating the First World War. I am someone who believes in commemorating it. My grandfather was in the war and I have been laying wreaths at war memorials for more years than I care to mention.”
Flag-flying had been a contentious issue at the Scottish Parliament until a policy was decided to fly the Saltire, the Union and the European Union flags at all times.
South Queensferry councillor Norman Work, of the SNP, echoed these views and said he was “all in favour” of remembering Scotland’s war sacrifice.
He said: “I think these things are politically motivated to say we fought and died together in wars, but so did many other people in Australia, Canada and India and all these countries are now independent. I’m all for remembering the people who sacrificed their lives, but I don’t know what the relevance is between the Forth Road Bridge and the First World War.”
Colin Keir, MSP for Edinburgh Western, said: “The easy way would be to have both the Union flag and the Saltire up there but I won’t lose any sleep about this.
“The First World War was one of the biggest human sacrifices in the history of mankind.
“It might have been a little bit easier if we had put both flags up and perhaps kept both sides of the argument happy.”