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Why do Scotland and Tenerife have the same flag?

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
Why do Scotland and Tenerife have the same flag?
Nobody is exactly sure why Tenerife and Scotland have practically the same flag. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

The flag of Scotland and the Spanish island of Tenerife are practically the same. Sheer coincidence, historical explanation or conspiracy theory?

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The flags of Scotland and the Canary island of Tenerife are both navy blue with a white diagonal cross, known as St Andrew’s Cross. 

They’re pretty much identical, aside from the fact that the Scottish one is a slightly darker shade of blue. 

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When visiting Tenerife in 2020, outgoing British ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott also asked why the Scottish flag was on top of Tenerife's Cabildo government building.

So why the resemblance? Well, nobody is 100 percent sure why. 

The most outlandish theory is that most influential Canary politicians in the 19th century belonged to the Masonic Grand Lodge of Scotland and proposed a design similar to the Tenerife flag to honour the Scottish freemasons. 

In fact, there is an abandoned masonic temple in the heart of Santa Cruz de Tenerife that is currently being renovated, one of the few that survived Spanish dictator Franco's regime.

Another theory states that the Scottish design was adopted as a sign of respect for the bravery of Scottish sailors who fought alongside the chicharreros (as the locals are called) in the Battle of Santa Cruz in 1797, when Great Britain’s Admiral Nelson tried to invade the city and the archipelago, but ultimately has his arm blown off by a cannonball and lost the battle. 

Scottish and Irish merchants did trade and live in the Atlantic islands for centuries; unfortunately though, it seems that there is less interesting explanation as to why Tenerife and Scotland probably share the same flag. 

READ ALSO: Why are there so many Irish street names in the Canary Islands?

The first records of St. Andrew’s flag being used in the Canary Islands are from 1845, when the archipelago became a maritime province of Spain and all Canary boats had to hoist this bandera (flag in Spanish). In 1867, the maritime province was split in two and Tenerife kept the flag.

Some say the blue represents the deep blue sea surrounding the isles and the white the snow on top of Teide, a dormant volcano in the centre of Tenerife and Spain’s highest peak. 

In Scotland’s case, the St Andrew’s Cross or Saltire is said to be the oldest flag in Europe, originating in a battle fought in 832AD when King Angus saw the cloud formation of a white saltire.

Legend has it Andrew the Apostle was crucified on a diagonal cross known as a saltire.

St. Andrew also happens to be a patron saint of Tenerife along with their own Virgin La Virgen de Candelaria, and there’s a seaside town close to the capital called San Andrés.

So perhaps the resemblance between the two flags is a combination of historical links and coincide. After all, it wouldn't be the first time that two flags from different places are practically the same or very similar: Chad's and Romania's, Indonesia's and Monaco's or Ireland's and Ivory Coast's, to name a few.

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