The national flag of Scotland is a white X-shaped cross, which spans diagonally across the flag on a blue background. The flag is called the Saltire or the Saint Andrew’s Cross. The color white in the Scottish flag symbolizes peace, and the blue representing the sky, symbolizes the virtues of justice, vigilance, and perseverance. The flag has had varying shades of blue as the background, ranging from sky blue to navy blue. The exact shade of the blue to be used in the Scottish flags was determined in 2003. This blue is lighter than the blue that is used in the Union Jack.
The historical evidence for the use of the saltire as a flag can be traced back to the 15th century, though at that time, it was merely one of the flags raised by the Scots. It had been in use on seals and other such symbols of Scotland earlier, but its use as the national flag of Scotland probably started in the 16th century.
St. Andrew was made Scotland’s patron saint in 832 BC. Angus (Oengus), King of the Picts, one of the Celtic tribes in Scotland, ventured out into battle against the Saxons under the command of Athelstan. Legend has it that on the eve of the battle, King Angus prayed for divine help from St. Andrew, and made a vow that he would make St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland if he won. On the day of the battle, Angus’s army saw a saltire-shaped cloud formation in the sky. The saltire is a representation of the cross on which St. Andrew was crucified. This raised the morale of the Angus and his Pict soldiers, and they overcame a numeric inferiority to win the battle. True to his word, King Angus made Saint Andrew the patron saint of Scotland and incorporated the St. Andrew’s Cross as the national flag of Scotland.
The flag of Scotland is flown on Scottish government buildings, except on days when flying the Union Jack is mandatory in the United Kingdom; then the saltire is lowered, and the Union Jack is raised for a day. The flag also represents Scotland in various avenues such as in Scottish divisions of the British Army and in various sports.