Published: 09/02/2018 08:00 - Updated: 08/02/2018 16:44

Sutherland flag committee say they have 'no intention' to re-run competition


The controversial flag
The controversial flag


SUTHERLAND’s Lord Lieutenancy has said it has no intention to re-visit the Sutherland flag design, despite mounting criticism of it.

The group released a statement this week following widespread objections to the design, which was chosen following a competition and features a swooping eagle and three mullets or stars.

It has been likened to a Soviet-style flag and the eagle labelled a “budgie with a smirk”. One critic said it would make Sutherland a “laughing stock.”

And there was fresh criticism this week, with a blistering attack on the image by a retired art and design teacher.

But Lt Col Colin Gilmour, vice lieutenant and spokesperson for the selection panel that chose the design, said it was not unusual for new flags to receive hostility – particularly online – when first revealed.

He said “There is no intent to re-run any competition. The Lord Lyon has now issued the warrant for the flag and it has been formally registered.

“The first flag is being made by a Scottish flag manufacturer and will be unveiled at a ceremony this summer on a date to be announced shortly.”

However, social media users are continuing to berate the design with many querying why it did not feature a wildcat, long thought to be the Sutherland emblem.

Critics are also asking why the public did not get a chance to vote.

Retired art and design teacher Alasdair Gordon, who entered the competition, has labelled it a “travesty of what good design should be”.

The 80-year-old is now calling on the selection panel to make public the final choice of entries from which the winning image was taken.

He is also querying whether there was a design expert on hand to give the panel guidance.

A graduate of Edinburgh Art College, Mr Gordon taught art and design at Dornoch Academy and Golspie High School for 30 years before retiring in 1993.

He is still active on the artistic front, designing logos and birthday cards for groups and individuals such as the local Gaelic choir.

He was asked to select the winning painting for the Steve MacGruer trophy at the 2017 East Sutherland Arts Society Golspie Gala Week exhibition.

Mr Gordon thought the winning artwork for the flag would probably be more contemporary and akin to that seen on football flags.

He was “flabbergasted” when he saw the final design, which was unveiled exclusively in the Northern Times a fortnight ago.

He said: “It is not even bad design – it is non-design. There is no design there at all.”

He is critical of the bright red and gold colouring and said the eagle was “lopsided”.

“If you are going to do a design like this, it has to be lifelike. That is no eagle,” he continued.

“It is annoying. There is nothing there that represents Sutherland. I don’t think any outsider would think of Sutherland when they see that flag.”

And he urged the selection panel: “Let us see what the short list of entries was. It will give us something to compare this with.”

North, west and central Sutherland councillor Kirsteen Currie has also entered into the fray.

She said: “I must admit when I saw the flag design myself this week I was very taken aback. The competition was a great idea, but I don’t feel that this flag represents the county well at all.”

Asked for his opinion MP Jamie Stone chose his words carefully.

He said: “I don’t really want to wade into this issue but I hope eventually something can be sorted that is to everyone’s best liking. Whatever the flag turns out to be, I will have great pleasure in hanging it with the Caithness one in my Westminster office.”

But the image does have its supporters with East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Jim McGillivray, who was on the selection panel, saying he is “proud” of the Sutherland Eagle.

Facebook users Brady Ells (assistant county flags officer at the Association of British Counties) Jody Mackay and Will Clark were the only three of more than 100 people who commented on the design on the NT Facebook page or emailed to us, to support it.

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