Flags, Armed Forces Day and the Common Good

If you dipped into Twitter yesterday to see what Stirling Council was doing about waste collections, the industrial dispute, bus cuts or the siege of developments now threatening our communities,...

If you dipped into Twitter yesterday to see what Stirling Council was doing about waste collections, the industrial dispute, bus cuts or the siege of developments now threatening our communities, you would have been surprised to see business being dominated by which bits of cloth should fly on our buildings and a weekend of military marching bands.

If you missed it, there was a silly Labour-Tory motion to replace the Saltire with a Union Jack on Council buildings linked to the debate on the most important decision on our collective future we will make in our lifetimes.

I don’t care too much for flags, I’ll happily wave a Union Jack at Wiggo in the Tour de France, or a Saltire at the Commy Games. Our identities and cultural leanings are diverse and multiple and we are all the more richer for it.

The independence debate should inspire us to build a better Scotland, one where we put our common wellbeing as the most important value. It’s not really about flags.

Thankfully sense prevailed and the motion was withdrawn, but another agenda item raised the flag again, this time for National Armed Forces Day.

Stirling has hosted a modest event for many years and while I understand the values around sacrifice, duty, tradition and connection to place that some wish to celebrate, it can get lost in pure militarism.

I have been making the case (in my civic role as Bailie) to the Provost and to other Bailies that we need to be evolving this annual event into more of a cultural festival like Edinburgh’s Mela. There has not been opposition to the idea of a genuine civic celebration that respects the contribution the armed services make alongside our other public services while celebrating the diversity of our communities.

However the decision by the Administration to host the main UK National Armed Forces Day has now bounced the Council into a mega event with a mega budget. We are literally now staring down the barrel of a gun with a minimum spend of £250k potentially up to £400k – over 25 times the budget for the smaller scale annual event.

The paper on the details and costs for this finally came to Council for scrutiny and a decision last night after Stirling was recently confirmed as the ‘winner’. I couldn’t support it. When the council is locked in an industrial dispute with staff, bins are not being emptied, buses are being cut and our schools are struggling to find the resources they need, it’s a step too far.

Another related item on the agenda was the future investment in Kings Park which was finally transferred to Scottish Government control this year with no drain on Stirling’s Common Good Fund. The reconnection of Stirling Castle with the full extent of it’s ancient Royal Park opens up fantastic potential as an event venue for concerts, gatherings and festivals and obviously National Armed Forces Day is being eyed up as an early opportunity to develop this.

However, I was concerned that one option available was to use the Stirling Common Good Fund to make the capital investment. I don’t have a problem in principle with the fund being used to make long term investments in the Royal Park that will benefit the people of Stirling over time, but this needs to be a genuine investment with a return that replenishes the fund and increases it.

No decision was taken on how to fund the improvement works ahead of next year’s 2014 events, but my concerns were acknowledged by the Administration and when it comes back to Council for a decision, any options involving the Common Good Fund must now have a clear model for profit sharing and reinvestment in the fund for the common weal.


This article originally appeared on the Stirling Greens website.