Flags have always caused rows.

Because – without a word being spoken – they say a lot.

A Union Flag can say you support Scotland staying in the UK – or you support Rangers.

A Saltire can say you want Scotland to be independent – or when I’ve waved it at Murrayfield or Hampden: ”Come on, Scotland!”

So when the UK government announces guidance that asks for the Union Flag to be flown on government buildings all year round, rather than just on a selected day, what will that flag be saying?

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: "Our national flag is a symbol of liberty, unity and freedom that creates a shared sense of civic pride.”

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Or (my interpretation): “I’m proud to be British!”

But then again, we citizens have this annoying habit of making our own minds up about such things.

Should we be surprised that such guidance is even needed for UK flags to be flown in the UK?

When I drive through France, every town hall and government building screams “Vive la France!” with its distinctive tricolour.

But in the United Kingdom in my lifetime, I’ve always sensed a reluctance to get behind our national flag in the same way.

And it’s origins have little to do with any debate over Scottish independence. More just a very British discomfort about blowing our own horn…or waving our own flag.

Lady Thatcher is still remembered 24 years on for placing a tissue from her handbag over the tail of a model British Airways aircraft after management replaced the Union Flag logo with some modern art. But she divided opinion in doing so.

Only last week, BBC Breakfast presenter Charlie Stayt was reprimanded for on-air sarcasm about the same Robert Jenrick’s Union Flag behind him being “not up to the standard size.”

Would a French TV news presenter have even made such a remark to one of President Macron’s cabinet at the Elysée Palace?

I, for one, shed many a joyful tear when the Union Flag was hoisted time and time again during the huge success in the London Olympics of Team GB.

But when it comes back to the Six Nations Rugby tournament, only a Saltire can represent my passion for a Scotland win over the rest of them…as it used to during the now-defunct Home International football matches.

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Given that I think long and hard about what I’m communicating for a living, I’m highly-aware how easily that same Saltire could send out an entirely different signal if I waved it from a bridge over the M74…or had it fluttering from my car’s back window. We live in a very divided society – and most people prefer to avoid criticism or annoying others. So they choose to avoid brandishing what may be interpreted as symbols of support.

But if you believe flag flying to be controversial in Scotland, consider this.

On St Andrew’s Day, government buildings in Scotland are allowed to fly only the Saltire.

On St George’s Day, government buildings in England fly the Union Flag…rather than the flag of St George.

So rather than flags now defining how we identify ourselves, they seem only to confuse the issue.

Bill McFarlan is Executive Chairman of Pink Elephant Communications