North of Scotland Newspapers began a campaign for Caithness to become the first mainland county in Scotland to have its own flag in May 2014, after Wick student Alan MacDonald, came up with the idea. It gained support from almost every organisation in Caithness, as well as widespread public backing.
Hence the story began, the Highland Council launched a public competition for designs and received 326 entries from across the globe including the US and Australia. It’s not bad for an area which only has a population of around 20,000 people.
The competition was designed in a way in which it was totally inclusive inviting school and college students to submit designs too.
June 2015 saw the 326 entries become 4 final proposed designs from which the public would choose a winner. The judging panel included Flag Institute vexillologist Philip Tibbetts, North of Scotland Newspapers editor Iain Grant and Highland councillors Gillian Coghill, Gail Ross and Roger Saxon as well as Dr Morrow and Mr Sutherland.
It took only 726 votes to decide a winner for the new official county standard. Interestingly, only 40 counties in England and Wales have their own flags, with 23 having obtained them within the last decade.
The final selected design features a Nordic cross and a galley symbolising Caithness’ ancient ties to the Vikings.
Quick Guide to Caithness
Caithness has a land boundary with the historic local government area of Sutherland and is otherwise bounded by sea. The land boundary follows a watershed and is crossed by two roads, the A9 and the A836, and one railway, the Far North Line. Across the Pentland Firth ferries link Caithness with Orkney, and Caithness also has an airport at Wick. The Pentland Firth island of Stroma is within Caithness. The name was also used for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (1708 to 1918). Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is now entirely within the Highland council area.