A fly-past by the Red Arrows at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, which saw the display team leave a trail of red, white and blue smoke in the sky, has led to suspicions that the stunt was politically motivated.
Questions were raised after it emerged publicity material for the Games had said the world famous display team would use the colours of the Scottish flag for the display.
Claims that a request for a blue and white smoke trail, by the Games organisers, had been overruled at the eleventh hour by the Mod, were swiftly denied by Westminster. In a statement today, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the air display team “always used red, white and blue”.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman added that the Red Arrows team were “ambassadors for the United Kingdom and are famous for their red, white and blue smoke trails which represent the whole of the UK”.
It has been confirmed by Games organisers that discussions were held with the Red Arrows regarding adopting the colours of the Scottish flag, but that no formal request was made.
However questions remain after it emerged that, contrary to Fallon’s claim, the aeronautical display team have previously adopted colours other than red, white and blue in displays.
Photographs have emerged showing the Red Arrows using the colours of the English flag in displays.
Research carried out by online site Wings Over Scotland has uncovered a display from 2006 which saw not just the colours of the St George’s Cross reproduced, but that actual flag, complete with red cross. The display was to celebrate the English football team’s participation in the World Cup.
Another more recent display in 2013 witnessed the Red Arrows use colours from the Maltese flag.
However, perhaps the most controversial colour change occurred in 2012 when the display team used blue and white at a birthday bash celebration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The episode will add to suspicions that Unionists are trying to politicise elements of the Glasgow Games in order to dampen pro-independence sentiment.
It has also emerged that flags bearing the Union Flag on one side and the Saltire on the other were handed out prior to the opening ceremony. Joint Saltire/Union flags have been widely used by pro-Union activists in the referendum campaign.