What Happens to the Union Jack Flag If Scotland Leaves the United Kingdom?

Scotland's blue may be leaving the iconic Union Jack flag. Here are some options for a replacement.

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The United Kingdom is a place of curious tradition. Beyond the formalities of queens, dukes, and baby princes, they also have a parliamentary flags and heraldry committee which has been very busy lately. Since Scotland may be leaving the United Kingdom this Thursday, Lord West, the deputy chairman of the committee, has said it would be "nonsense" to keep Scotland's color (blue) in the Union Jack flag. West told The Daily Mail, "In the event of a 'Yes' vote I cannot see how you can save the flag of the United Kingdom."

The Union Jack is a combination of some other very historical flags. It started off as St. George's red cross flag in 1270. In 1606, it was combined with the cross saltire of St. Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland. That's the white cross on the blue background Lord West is not fond of right now. After that, St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, had his cross saltire incorporated into the flag. That's the red diagonal. On the first day of 1801, the Union Jack flag as we know it today was created.

While that is when the flag came to be, it was never actually formally adopted. Chief executive of the Flag Institute Charles Ashburner told The Guardian that the Union Jack "fell into use" and therefore "nobody controls the union flag." He also notes that removing the blue would allow for Wales to be represented in the Union Jack. Wales could also be represented using the flag of their Patron Saint David, a black and yellow cross.

Here's the very blue Scottish flag in question:

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Here are some people celebrating St George's Day, England's national day, with lots of red and white attire:

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Lest we forget St Patrick:

And here's the Union Jack with the blue and red cross incorporated (bonus public house):

AP Photo/Scott Heppell

And here's the Wales flag that might be a substitute (bonus soccer rugby players):

AP Photo/Tom Hevezi

The Prime Minister's office has not yet commented on plans for the flag, telling The Guardian, "We haven't made any contingency plans for that." There's also the problem of who would actually decide the fate of the flag. York Herald Peter O'Donoghue said, "[The flag change] would be discussed by the Garter King of Arms [the most senior officer at the College] with the government and the palace." O'Donoghue admitted to The Guardian that the design choice was a "grey area," so there is not one ultimate authority on the matter.

If some authority were to speak definitely on the future of the flag on Friday and decided it was time for a change, removing the Union Jack flag would be no simple undertaking. The Union Jack flag is flown at a number of important places: constantly above the Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Sandringham when The Queen is not home; on public buildings chosen by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (and by the Queen); and on government buildings on a royal's birthday, Commonwealth Day, Coronation Day, Remembrance Day, State Opening and prorogation of Parliament.

While the flag's future is quite uncertain, people are already drawing up proposals for a new flag. Here are some options, designed by various artists:

Simply removing the blue

Adding in green for the Welsh

Adding in black from St. David's flag

Using the Welsh green in the Union Jack, removing blue

Replacing the blue with black from St. David's flag

Or we could just include everyone

Alyn Griffiths, De Zeen Magazine

Here's a rendering of my personal favorite fluttering in the wind:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.