Meaning of the Scottish Flags

Every country has a flag; but Scotland has two. So on this page I’ll briefly explain the meaning of the Scottish Flags.

Of course The Flags are just part of our culture and customs that makes Scotland the exception country it is. Other Traditions are also important to us such as how we celebrate Burns Suppers, Traditional Scottish Christmas and of course our famous Hogmanay or New Year's Eve, as well as Valentine's Day and St Andrews Day.

If you are interested in learning more about our Language, customs and culture please do browse our Scottish Customs & Culture Bookstore.

However, the first Scottish Flag is the Saltire (blue and white cross of St Andrew). If you're interested in buying a Scottish Flag, please check further down the page.

The Saltire

The Saltire

The second is the Lion Rampart or as it is correctly known Rampant. This is the Lion of Scotland which has a gold background with a lion standing on its hind legs.

The Lion Rampant

Meaning of the Scottish Flag - Lion Rampart

In itself, a flag is just a rectangular piece of cloth stuck on to a pole. But it's the colours and designs on each flag which represent something specific for that country. Every citizen knows their own country’s flag, and Scotland is no exception. It gives us a sense of pride and belonging, and I'll share with you briefly the meaning of the Scottish flags.

There is nearly always a history to a country’s flag, ours goes back many hundreds of years.

Saltire on a wall

saltire on a wall

So what is the meaning of the Scottish Flags?

The first and REAL Scottish flag is a silver cross on a blue background, with the cross going from corner to corner, and it is known as the saltire. It is also known as St Andrews Cross. St Andrew was one of the twelve disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is believed that he too was crucified. The story goes that the Romans were threatened by Andrew, as they said he was spreading wrong ideas among the people, so they decided to crucify him. Andrew apparently did not feel he was good enough for that so asked for a different cross than Jesus. The cross was in the shape of an X which became the shape on the flag.

You may be wondering what the connection is with Scotland and St Andrew? His fame had grown and grown, even after his death. It is believed that Andrew was buried in Patrae in Greece and the story is told that 400 years after his death the Emperor Constantine decided that this little part of Greece was not a suitable place for the ’bones’ of such a great saint. So St Andrew’s remains were to be taken to the capital Constantinople, the greatest city in the world at that time.

The keeper of St Andrew's remains apparently had a dream and followed the instructions in the dream travelled eventually to Caledonia (or Scotland) where they are said to have buried St Andrew beneath the alter in the newly established church. The simple church building was eventually replaced with an awesome cathedral, the St Rule’s Tower which is now beside the ruined cathedral in

St Andrews.

St Andrew's Cathedral

St Andrews Cathedral

Of course, the fact that the great apostle laid buried in Fife, was a great source of pride for ancient Scots.

The legend goes on to say how when the Picts were fighting the Anglo-Saxons, King Angus had a dream on the eve of a battle that St Andrew appeared to him carrying his cross. Others say that a 'saltire cross' appeared in the 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 and his cross the flag of Scotland. Angus did win and the Saltire duly became the national flag, and St Andrew at that point became the patron saint, protecting the Scots.

Thus began the meaning of the Scottish Flags.

The Saltire


Saltire on a pole

The Lion Rampant (or as many call it Rampart) is also seen throughout Scotland, but the Saltire has certainly been adopted as THE Flag! You only have to remember the Mel Gibson Film Braveheart to see how it was used as a symbol then. Now Scottish Football fans ("The Tartan Army") do the same, and at international games you will see dozens of fans with the saltire painted on their faces.

Scottish Football Fan

Patriotic Boy

As we look the meaning of the Scottish flags,we must also include The Lion Rampant or the Royal Standard of Scotland (or Coat of Arms). This was a flag that was used when the monarch was around. At one time it was an offence for this flag to be flown anywhere, other than for royalty.

The "Lion" represents strength and nobility and therefore this is seen a suitable symbol for our royalty.

The Lion Rampant

Meaning of the Scottish Flags -Lion Rampant

You'll see the both the saltire and the Lion Rampant flying from major Government buildings to private dwellings, placed on cars and of course on hundreds of souvenirs.

Saltire and Lion Rampant

Nowadays it is used widely and is often used in the manufacture of souvenirs, and few know that at one point it was only used by royalty. Today you'll even see it on our £1 coins.

Of course there are a number of other old Scottish Symbols around as well as the flags. The meaning of the Scottish flags goes hand and hand with the history and legend of other signs.

Everywhere you go you'll see the Celtic Cross. It's on souvenirs and jewellery and arts and crafts.

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross

The lowly Thistle is often seen as Scotland's National "badge" - again you may remember in the film Braveheart, the young William Wallace being given a thistle by the little girl at his Father's funeral.

The Famous Scottish Thistle


Heather is seen on hills, woods and gardens everywhere in Spring. It is a flower with deep traditions and legends. It's seen as one of our National Flowers.



For further information see also the following:-

Traditional Scottish Christmas - Discover how we celebrate Christmas here in Scotland.
Scottish Hogmanay Customs - Learn about Hogmanay and how we bring in the New Year.
Burns Supper - Discover this famous Meal which celebrates the birth of our famous Poet Rabbie Burns.
Valentine's Day in Scotland - Did you know that the remains of St Valentines are in Glasgow, Scotland? Find out more
St Andrews - - The 'Home' of golf, and the oldest University in Scotland, wonderful beaches, and the the history of St Andrew and the saltire.

Please also take some time to browse our Bookstores - I'm sure you'll find something to interest you:-

1.   Guide Books and Maps Bookstore - Select and Buy your Guide Books and Maps before you visit.

2.   General Books on Scotland Bookstore - See a good selection of books about Scotland.

3.   Golf in Scotland Bookstore - There are so many books on Golf that I felt this had to be a category on its own, especially as St Andrews in Fife is the "Home" of Golf.

4.   Scottish Language, Customs and Culture Bookstore - Whether you're looking for some history, Dictionary of Scottish Words, or information on all sorts of our culture eg Hogmanay, you'll find a selection of books here that might just fit the bill.

5.   Music and DVDs Store - You'll find a wide selection of some favourite Scottish Music such as Pipes and Drums, Fiddle, Accordian music and many famous Artists including The Proclaimers and Lulu.  There's also a selection of  DVDs which will introduce you to some of the sights of Scotland including Castles.

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