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Flag fight breaks out over 'Union Jack' on Scottish public buildings

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has denied claims that her pro-independence government is trying to remove the United Kingdom’s official flag, the Union Jack, from Scottish government buildings.

FILE PHOTO: Union Jack (L) and Saltire flags fly outside the Lloyds Banking Group Scottish Headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland May 1, 2014. Photograph taken May 1, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

The updating of Scottish government guidelines on flag-hoisting above public buildings has prompted an outcry in right-leaning media and among politicians in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party.

Under guidelines updated last month, the Union Jack will be only be raised above Scottish government buildings on Remembrance Sunday and Armed Forces Day rather than, as before, on royal birthdays or anniversaries as well.

On royal occasions, a Scottish royal ensign, known as the “Lion Rampant”, will be flown. The Lion Rampant, or the Royal Banner of Scotland, is a standard of Britain’s royal family which is used on their residences when Queen Elizabeth is not present.

Conservative lawmaker Murdo Fraser said the Scottish government was trying to “push its separatist agenda by stealth”.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s always keen to stress that her civic nationalism is nothing to do with flags and banners. Yet here we have her trying to eradicate the union flag from government buildings in Scotland,” he said.

Sturgeon denied she had ordered the change and the Scottish government said the latest guidance merely reflected a change brought in eight years ago with the assent of the queen.

“The underlying policy has not changed,” Sturgeon said on Twitter.

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, Sturgeon’s predecessor, waded into the row in a blog on his website.

“Given that this has been the policy for eight years with the Lion Rampant flying proudly on royal occasions, including jubilees and new royal births and weddings as well as birthdays, why have none of these (Conservative) politicians and newspapers even noticed the flags flying in front of their eyes for the best part of a decade!” he wrote.

Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; editing by Stephen Addison