Regional Flags: Driving Licences and Number Plates

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:17 pm on 19th April 2017.

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Transport) 5:17 pm, 19th April 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Nuttall. I congratulate Scott Mann on securing this debate. I loved his line about an independent, sovereign state, which is something that has been close to my heart for a long time. I hope to see Scotland as an independent, sovereign state in relatively short order.

We can all support the principle of being able to choose to show a regional or national identity in flags on driving licences and number plates. We should be open to the ability for people to choose the representation to promote their individual area and the nation that they are from—it is incumbent on us to be as open as possible. I fully support the choice for the option of the St Piran’s cross and for it to be set next to the Union flag or indeed the cross of St George. Similarly, in Scotland, if the good people of Caithness want to have their flag next to the saltire on their driving licence, that is something that should be taken forward too. There is lots to agree here and there should be flexibility from the Minister in how that goes forward.

I will be brief in my summing up, because, although we can say that we agree with the principle, it is difficult to pick a lot to challenge. But I would say this: while there is a collective rubbing of hands of some people who favour the Brexit position and cannot wait to exit the European Union, I would remind people that the European flag has been a symbol of free movement across Europe. When that symbol is connected with and on vehicles, it shows how easy it is for people to move from one country to another without any restriction.

One of the biggest challenges coming is not the question of what flag will be on a hon. Member’s or a member of the public’s number plate. It will be what happens to the customs rules, cabotage arrangements and people’s ability to move around and do business in Europe. Although we are enjoying a debate about flags, there are serious issues to be dealt with by the Government. As of yet—the Minister will know this well, because he has been challenged many times by me directly—there are no answers on what is happening with free movement.

The ability for people to choose, and to reflect their area, should be supported, and, as regards the main thrust of the argument advanced by the hon. Member for North Cornwall, I absolutely support people’s ability to make that choice. They should have the choice nationally; they should have the choice regionally.