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19th of July 2018

United Kingdom



Scottish outrage at plans to paint England flags on Big Ben

Scottish and Welsh MPs erupt in fury after officials unveil plans to paint the England flag on Big Ben - but the Union Jack will NOT be included in the new designParliamentary authorities have unveiled plans for restoration of Big Ben towerSt George's flag will be picked out prominently above famous Great Clock faceScottish MPs voice anger that there is no union flag or the Saltire on the tower 

By James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline and Kate Ferguson, Political Correspondent For Mailonline

Published: 06:40 EDT, 11 July 2018 | Updated: 06:22 EDT, 18 July 2018

A furious row has erupted after officials unveiled plans to paint the England flag on Big Ben - but the union jack will not be added.

Parliament's giant clocktower will have the emblem of St George featured prominently after a major renovation programme is finished off.

The move was announced just hours before the England team are due to take on Croatia in the semi final of the World Cup.  

The authorities insisted the design is merely returning to the original Victorian colour scheme and that the Scottish thistle, Welsh leek and Northern Irish shamrock symbols will also be present.

The coloured emblems were originally paintedon the Lonodn landmark, but became balckened with the pollution and thhick smog which smothered London during the Victorian times.

It is believed that officials decided to paint the details black in the 1930s or earlier to save on upkeep - and they will be returned to their original glory for the first time in nearly a century.

But the decision drew howls of anger as the union flag does not feature, and nor will the Saltire, or flags representing Wales and Northern Ireland. 

SNP MP Pete Wishart added: 'This is a welcome boost for Scottish independence as Westminster prepares to become an England-only parliament.

'People will, however, be forgiven for thinking that transition began long ago - as Scotland continues to be sidelined and ignored on the biggest issues facing our country.' 

Plaid Cymru Welsh Assembly member Simon Thomas tweeted: 'Well that's certainly telling the rest of us where to go.'

The emblem of England is to be picked out above the clock face on the famous landmark at Westminster as part of a refurbishment. Picture is an artist's impression of the new look that has been issued by Parliament. The flags are believed to have been originally painted on, but were covered with  black paint in the early 20th century after becoming discouloured by smog and pollution The emblem of England is to be picked out above the clock face on the famous landmark at Westminster as part of a refurbishment. Picture is an artist's impression of the new look that has been issued by Parliament. The flags are believed to have been originally painted on, but were covered with  black paint in the early 20th century after becoming discouloured by smog and pollution

The emblem of England is to be picked out above the clock face on the famous landmark at Westminster as part of a refurbishment. Picture is an artist's impression of the new look that has been issued by Parliament. The flags are believed to have been originally painted on, but were covered with  black paint in the early 20th century after becoming discouloured by smog and pollution

The existing frontage of the tower - with the shields painted black and gold rather than white and red - is being overhauled as part of a huge restoration project The existing frontage of the tower - with the shields painted black and gold rather than white and red - is being overhauled as part of a huge restoration project

The existing frontage of the tower - with the shields painted black and gold rather than white and red - is being overhauled as part of a huge restoration project

Another artist's impression released by Parliament today shows the Scottish thistle, Welsh leek and Northern Irish shamrock symbols will also be present on the tower slightly above the St George flags. The details were originally painted on but were also covered in black pain - they will be returned to their former glory for the first time in around a century Another artist's impression released by Parliament today shows the Scottish thistle, Welsh leek and Northern Irish shamrock symbols will also be present on the tower slightly above the St George flags. The details were originally painted on but were also covered in black pain - they will be returned to their former glory for the first time in around a century

Another artist's impression released by Parliament today shows the Scottish thistle, Welsh leek and Northern Irish shamrock symbols will also be present on the tower slightly above the St George flags. The details were originally painted on but were also covered in black pain - they will be returned to their former glory for the first time in around a century

Plaid Cymru Welsh Assembly member Simon Thomas tweeted his irritation at the prominence given to the St George flag Plaid Cymru Welsh Assembly member Simon Thomas tweeted his irritation at the prominence given to the St George flag

Plaid Cymru Welsh Assembly member Simon Thomas tweeted his irritation at the prominence given to the St George flag

An artist's impression showing six shields bearing the red and white English national flag above the clock was revealed by the Parliamentary authorities.

The blackened dials of the famous clock will also revert to Prussian blue numbers with gold frames filled with white glass as part of the £61 million renovation of the Elizabeth Tower. 

Other areas of black paint around the outside will be gilded. The plan follows modern analysis of the layers of paint that have built up on the tower over the decades. 

It is believed that the current colour scheme was adopted in the early 20th century after the Victorian building, designed by Charles Barry, had been blackened by decades of heavy air pollution in London. 

Restoration plan will take Big Ben back to Victorian times

Parliament's plans come after analysis the layers of paint that have built up on the tower over the decades.

It is believed that the current colour scheme was adopted in the early 20th century after the Victorian building, designed by Charles Barry, had been blackened by decades of heavy air pollution in London.

The previously more vibrant colours were covered up in black and gold that would show fewer signs of wear and tear. 

The new - or more accurately old - look will see six shields above the Great Clock bear the red and white English national flag.

Shields bearing a rose, leek, shamrock and thistle can be found slightly higher up on the tower, representing the four home nations.

The blackened dials will also revert to Prussian blue numbers with gold frames filled with white glass as part of the £61million renovation of the Elizabeth Tower.

Other areas of black paint around the outside will be gilded. 

The previously more vibrant colours were covered up in black and gold. 

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, spokesman for the Commons Commission, said: 'The new colour scheme, it is not going to be dramatically different to what people see now. 

'However it is restoring it back to what Charles Barry had in mind. 

'Something that people will notice is a contrast between the clock face and the clock hands and the surrounding tower.' 

Regarding the St George's Cross, he said: 'It represents what is best about England and the English nature. 

'Obviously the Scots, the Welsh and Northern Irish are represented on the tower with the different rosettes that are there representing those countries. 'So I'm sure they won't object to that.' 

Shields bearing a rose, leek, shamrock and thistle can be found above the clock on the tower, representing the four home nations.  

But SNP MP Tommy Sheppard told MailOnline: 'Maybe they are assuming that on the future the union will be dissolved.

'It seems very odd. I think you would have the union flag or all the flags for the component parts of the UK.

'It certainly makes a statement if they are only using the St George flag. I don't think they have thought through the political consequences.'  

It is the first time in more than 30 years that a significant renovation has been undertaken - and the colours of the St George flag have not been visible in living memory. 

As well as repairing the aging mechanism of the Great Clock, new glass is being installed and paint restored. The tower is commonly known as Big Ben - although that is in fact the name of the bell. 

A Commons spokesman confirmed that there will not be any other flag on the tower. 

Adam Watrobski, Parliament's Principal Architect, said: 'As part of the major repair and conservation of the Elizabeth Tower, we have carried out extensive research into the original decorative scheme for the clock faces and the adjacent areas. 

There is a backlash because the Elizabeth Tower will not feature the union flag or the Saltire There is a backlash because the Elizabeth Tower will not feature the union flag or the Saltire

There is a backlash because the Elizabeth Tower will not feature the union flag or the Saltire

The Parliamentary authorities insist that the £61million overhaul for the tower - which is currently smothered in scaffolding - will return it to its former glory The Parliamentary authorities insist that the £61million overhaul for the tower - which is currently smothered in scaffolding - will return it to its former glory

The Parliamentary authorities insist that the £61million overhaul for the tower - which is currently smothered in scaffolding - will return it to its former glory

'Using historic paint analysis and references including Barry's original design watercolour, contemporary illustrations and archival photographs, we have recreated the original colour scheme. 

'The dials and clock hands are Prussian blue and gold and the adjacent areas make use of the red, white and blue colours of the Union flag, along with the detail colours used for heraldic shields for each part of the United Kingdom.' 

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