THE removal of a Saltire on display in a council park in Airdrie – to be replaced by the Union Jack – has caused some shock and anger in the town.

It happened around a fortnight ago in West End Park, which is owned by North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) and maintained by the voluntary group Friends of West End Park.

Independence activist Jim Cassidy told The National he had been contacted by a number of people about the swap, so raised it with the council.

He said: “I contacted the Labour leader of North Lanarkshire Council Jim Logue, who was very helpful and who informed me that having spoken to someone representing ‘Friends of West End Park’ group ... that our national flag would be replaced as soon as one could be sourced.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson Covid conferences criticised by Lords over Union Jackery

“I was therefore disappointed to be contacted yesterday by someone who had written to the group, who made me aware that they had reneged on the agreement with North Lanarkshire Council and had decided to keep the British flag flying instead. Having seen the letter they sent, I have to say that I was concerned at their actions and am unconvinced as to the motivations behind their decision.”

In the letter, which has been seen by The National, they said the group was apolitical and, “very saddened and surprised” that their upgrade to the flagpole was “somehow associated to a political/national cause”.

They said the flagpole is adjacent to the town’s war memorial, which they also help maintain, and they had received several requests from ex-service personnel, veterans and their families, indicating “they felt it would be right that we gave consideration to a British flag”.

However, Cassidy, a former serviceman, was not convinced: “They state that the group is non-political and non-sectarian, but that doesn’t mean that you can be blind to the political and sectarian connotations linked to the British flag, and one would have had to be living under a rock to have missed them.

“The Saltire which flew there was something all our community had no argument over, and its removal coincides with British Government attempts to rebrand much of Scotland with the British flag in a programme of ‘Union-Jackery’, so it is understandable why people cannot simply accept this is simply an innocent misunderstanding.

“As a former member of the armed forces who used to parade every year with the Royal Engineers on Remembrance Sunday, I do not believe that the wishes of a few veterans and their families should be given greater consideration than the entire community of Airdrie.

“The British Nationalist community does have a particular focus on a few key areas, such as the flying of the British flag, year-round poppy displays and veterans causes, so the decision to remove the Saltire and replace it with the British must be viewed in that context.”

​READ MORE: Why don’t more Scots display national pride by flying the Saltire?

He said the timing was also suspicious, coming weeks before Scotland takes part in its first major football tournament in more than 20 years.

The Airdrie for Independence group is planning a demonstration at the flag on Monday at 1pm, an hour before Scotland kick off their Euro 2020 campaign.

The SNP won most seats and votes at the last local elections, but NLC is run by a minority Labour administration with support from the Tories and independents.

A spokesperson said: “The Friends of West End and Centenary Park is a voluntary community organisation run by an independent committee who do a fantastic job looking after the park for the benefit of the local people and visitors.

“Flying the Saltire or Union Flag is at the discretion of the committee.”

Friends of West End Park have been approached for comment.