ON St Andrew’s Day, the Scottish Flag Trust charity launched an ambitious fundraising drive to restore and upgrade the “birthplace” of the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag.

The St Andrew’s Cross, or Saltire, has been Scotland’s national flag for centuries and is the oldest continuously-used national flag in Europe. Tradition has it that the flag, that lovely plain white Saltire on a blue background, originated in a ninth-century battle fought in East Lothian, near the village of Athelstaneford where the Saltire Memorial and the Flag Heritage Centre are located.


THE Trust aims to raise £100,000 through crowdfunded donations, and individual and corporate donations from Scots across the world.

The restoration and renewal project will see a new accessible pathway with an interpretive timeline telling the history and adoption of Scotland’s national flag. New landscaping and engraved paving around the Saltire Memorial will tell the story of St Andrew and Scots societies across the globe.

A new immersive audio-visual experience will tell the story of the Battle of Athelstaneford and the creation and adoption of Scotland’s national flag.

Re-harling of the 16th-century lectern doocot which houses the Flag Heritage Centre will maintain this important historic building and keep it safe for the future.


THE charity maintains the Saltire Memorial and the Flag Heritage Centre at Athelstaneford and promotes the proper use of the Saltire.

David Williamson, chair of the Scottish Flag Trust said: “The Saltire is a welcoming symbol for all Scots whether they are Scots by birth, by choice or through their family roots.

“Our new fundraising programme aims to restore and renew this unique visitor attraction so that more people can learn about the history of Scotland’s national flag.”


LET the trust tell the story: “It is believed that the battle took place in the year 832AD. An army of Picts under Angus mac Fergus, High King of Alba, and aided by a contingent of Scots led by Eochaidh (Kenneth mac Alpin’s grandfather) had been on a punitive raid into Lothian (then and for long afterwards Northumbrian territory), and were being pursued by a larger force of Angles and Saxons under one Athelstan.

“The Albannach/Scots were caught and stood to face their pursuers in the area of Markle, near East Linton. This is to the north of the modern village of Athelstaneford (which was resited on higher ground in the 18th century), where the Peffer, which flows into the Firth of Forth at Aberlady forms a wide vale.

“The Peffer presented a major obstacle to crossing and the two armies came together at the ford near the present-day farm of Prora (one of the field names there is still the Bloody Lands).

“Fearing the outcome of the encounter, King Angus led prayers for deliverance and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white Saltire against a blue sky. The king vowed that if, with the saint’s help, he gained the victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland.”

The Scots did win, and the Saltire – after a few centuries, it has to be said – became the official national flag of Scotland.