Pretty much the entire Scottish media yesterday carried a sad story about the funeral in Forfar of a young soldier who tragically died after serving in Afghanistan.
Private Mark Connolly wasn’t killed in combat but died after being punched by a comrade in a fight. Wrangling between his widow and mother had delayed his funeral for four years, and spilled over into angry confrontations as he was laid to rest, which the papers reported with considerable relish and plenty of photographs, and even video footage from the graveside.
The story was picked up in the Scotsman, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph’s Scotland section, STV News, BBC Scotland, the Courier and more. Curiously, though, one aspect of the unfortunate event was almost completely written out of the coverage.
An article which appeared in the Daily Mirror and Daily Record (which lifts large parts of its content straight from its English sister paper) noted another source of conflict at the funeral which wasn’t mentioned anywhere else in the Scottish media.
Readers might assume that this would be standard armed-forces practice, given that Pte Connolly served in the British army. But it isn’t. Soldiers have been buried in recent years draped in both the Saltire and the St George’s Cross rather than the Union Jack. So it’s not clear why “army top brass” would have refused a widow’s wish to bury her husband in the flag of her choice. No reason was quoted in the paper.
But alert readers may recall that last July the Ministry of Defence blocked the Red Arrows from flying over the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games trailing smoke in the colours of Scotland’s flag, insisting on using the red, white and blue of the UK instead. They claimed that as a British unit the team only ever displayed those colours, something which we revealed to be a lie.
We’re constantly told that Scotland is still a “country” within the UK. The Queen is Queen Of Scots separately to being monarch of the rest of the UK, and is not referred to as Elizabeth II north of the border. It therefore seems perfectly legitimate for a Scottish soldier in the British army, serving his “queen and country”, to nevertheless be repatriated under the Saltire should that be the expressed wish of his next of kin.
The referendum was almost four months ago. But it seems as though the British armed forces are still bitterly fighting the war against independence.