Fire chiefs remove 'offensive' saltire from engines after complaints

A firefighter claims Grampian Fire & Rescue Service (GFRS) chiefs have removed the saltire from two new appliances after complaints which branded the use of the national flag "offensive".

The Aberdeen-based firefighter said he was "disgusted" at the manner in which GFRS had responded to two complaints, one internal and the other from a member of the public, less than four months after the national emblem was unveiled on the front grille of the fire engines.

It is understood the complaints centred around the saltire's link to the SNP and fears the flag could be viewed as a sign of support for Scottish independence.

But Grampian Fire and Rescue said the move was simply to bring the two appliances into line with the rest of the fleet.

The fireman, who did not wish to be identified, said: "One of the complaints stated that they were offended as the flag was now a sign of pro-Scottish independence. So they took the rash decision to remove them immediately.

"Having spoken with members of the transport department, it was 100% a decision by the corporate team due to complaints received.

"They were all very happy and proud of the flags, and were dismayed as everyone else. It was not due to keeping the fleet in line."

The new engines, which cost just over £200,000 each, were given the saltire logo in advance of Scotland's eight fire brigades being merged into one unitary authority next spring.

When they were unveiled in August, Grampian's fleet manager Raymond Cheyne said: "The badging for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is needed because of the new single Scottish service coming into being next April.

"We wanted to celebrate the new Scottish Service coming into place so chose to use the saltire. We've used high-visibility striping to make it part of the functional design of the appliance."

However, when contacted by STV News over the removal of the Saltires, Mr Cheyne stated: "I don't want to comment."

Aberdeen SNP MSP Kevin Stewart reacted furiously to the decision and said Scots should be proud of the flag which represents everybody in their nation.

He said: "If this is the case, it is absolutely disgraceful. We must be the only country in the world which seems to be ashamed of displaying their national flag. The Saltire is a symbol for all Scots.

"So it is lunacy that some people are objecting to something like this. And a bit daft."

A spokesman for Grampian Fire and Rescue said the decision had been implemented because the new Saltire-bearing engines "didn't fit in with the rest of the fleet".

However, the unnamed firefighter said that personnel were "very unhappy" that their bosses had bowed to a small number of complaints and chosen "not to celebrate national pride."

Jim Thorburn, a former fireman with the Grampian service, who worked for the force for 30 years agreed. He said he was astonished there were problems with the saltire appearing on fire appliances.

He said: "A complaint was made and the saltires were taken off the engines, because somebody claimed to be offended.

"Why on earth should anybody be offended by a Scottish flag? The people who work for the emergency services are working to keep people in Scotland safe. Aren't they allowed to show a little pride in the country where they live?

"The operational guys can't say anything about this, but I know many of them are unhappy with the way the matter has been handled. But I'm retired, so they can't touch me."

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