THE news that the Scottish Parliament will now keep its European flag is very welcome.

The original decision by the Parliament’s Corporate Body to remove it was surprising and regrettable and it is heartening that a clear majority of MSPs has endorsed maintaining Holyrood’s European standard.

We are, most unfortunately, mere hours away from Brexit. In the difficult period ahead, the flag will serve as a powerful symbol to people within and outwith Scotland that our European spirit will not be diminished.

READ MORE: Almost 3000 people sign petition to keep EU flag at Holyrood

While we must face the challenges of Brexit, we are not obliged to renounce our commitment to the values of friendship and co-operation embedded into the European Union which we share with our fellow Europeans.

The fact the idea was even raised to take down the flag speaks to a change of mindset by some. Yet Scotland is a European nation and we never agreed to leave the EU. We do not have to change who we are because of Brexit – and indeed we shouldn’t.

It is disappointing that many MSPs voted against keeping the flag. It is beyond doubt that the majority of the people of Scotland support EU membership, a position demonstrated in numerous elections and opinion polls and which transcends the divide on independence.

It has been suggested that the issue of the Parliament’s flags is simply procedural. Yet that is not the reality. Brexit is a populist political project based on illusions of self-importance. If the flag had been taken down, it would have signalled our acceptance of that.

The National: Anthony Salamone says the flag is just a symbol, but symbols are importantAnthony Salamone says the flag is just a symbol, but symbols are important

Another argument runs that the UK as a whole backed Brexit – which is another way of saying that England and Wales voted to leave.

But MSPs do not represent England and Wales. They represent the people of Scotland, who have at every opportunity made clear their opposition to Brexit. The unspoken reason for seeking to remove the flag is that being seen to back keeping it might somehow be construed as support for independence. That logic reflects insecurity and lacks principles. None of these arguments stands up to scrutiny in the face of Scotland’s pro-European public opinion.

The debate over the flag reminds some of the politics of Northern Ireland where symbols – and flags in particular – are highly contested.

READ MORE: Scottish Government moves to stop EU flag being taken down at Holyrood

The political environments of Scotland and Northern Ireland are very different for many reasons. Moreover, Northern Ireland remains in numerous respects a divided society. Scotland is, by contrast, emphatically not divided on the question of Europe.

In these uncertain times, statements of principles matter immensely. Flying the European flag at Holyrood is a symbol of resolve. It demonstrates that Scotland will remain an open, European country. It reminds EU citizens who call this home that they, and newcomer Europeans, will always be welcome here.

Our fellow Europeans will continue to see our shared flag when they visit our Parliament and it will be a clear message to them that Scotland still believes in the promise of the European Union – a more peaceful, prosperous and united Europe for everyone.

Anthony Salamone is a former academic at the London School of Economics who has set up Edinburgh-based political analysis firm European Merchants