In August, during the Leith Flag Festival local barber was subjected to racist taunts and threatened with violence for flying a St George’s Cross flag outside his shop.
As part of the Leith Flag Festival, and to generate a bit of “local banter and fun” Keith Hales, 58, put up the English national flag, alongside an Italian flag, outside his Leith Walk shop but was shocked when passers-by stopped to shout abuse.
Mr Hales was even visited by a police officer and council official after complaints his display was offensive and but they deny his claims that he was asked to take it down.
He said: “I couldn’t believe how angry people were. At first I thought it was quite funny in the sense that I didn’t expect it and was really surprised by some people’s reaction. A bit of banter is fine and funny but when it comes to people saying ‘we’re going to rip it down and smash your windows’ or ‘watch your back’, it gets a little more sinister.”
The experiences of Mr Hales flies in the face of the Leith Flag Festival as it had been organised by the Leith Business Association to celebrate ethnic diversity by businesses doing exactly what Mr Hales had done – flying national flags.
“I think it is shocking and terrible, it shows a real narrow-mindedness.” said Gordon Munro, Labour councillor for Leith, He went on to say that “If it was a Saltire or the national flag of Pakistan, Ireland, Wales or any other country, it wouldn’t have happened. It is just because it’s St George’s.”
Foysol Choudhury of the Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council, said it was everyone’s right to display their national flag without intimidation. “In Scotland, we call ourselves multicultural and we should demonstrate that by allowing people to celebrate their background without fear of reprisals,” he said.