During the Burns Supper in January 2019, some might have noticed on the stage in the background a number of flags. These were the Canadian Flag, the Lion Rampant, the Royal Union Flag (also known as the Union Jack when flown at sea), the Saltire (Cross of St. Andrew) and the Royal Scots Navy Red Ensign.
The Saltire is the national flag of Scotland. Scotland has a very regimented and regulated system of honours, including flags. The Saltire is the correct flag for individuals and corporate bodies to fly. It is flown from Scottish Government buildings. Its origins can be traced to about the 15th Century.
The Royal Scots Navy Red Ensign is the ensign of the Royal Scots Navy prior to 1707 (Act of Union). This flag is clearly the antecedent flag to what we in Canada know as the Red Ensign (Canada's official flag from 1944-1965) and what is also known as the flag of the British merchant marine - the Red Meteor. While this is a historical flag - it is a reminder that Scotland before 1707 was a fully fledged European maritime power.
In 1603, when King James VI of Scotland acceded to the thrones of England and Ireland to become King James I (of England and Ireland), with the union of the crowns, a new flag was proclaimed, called the Union Flag. He proclaimed the Union Flag with the cross of St. Andrew superimposed. The College of Arms objected and made the King change the form of the flag so that the cross of St. George (the English flag) would be superimposed on the cross of St. Andrew. This was taken as an affront to the Scottish nation. In 1707 the design of the flag was revisited and the version we know was approved.
To Canadians this variant of the Royal Union Flag should appear familiar. It is of course known in eastern Canada as the flag of the United Empire Loyalists. This was the flag of the Realm at the time of the War of the American Rebellion (what Americans call the American War of Independence or the War of the American Revolution 1775-1783).
The Royal Union Flag we know of today originates from 1801. It reflects the Act of Union 1800 which merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain (comprising England and Wales, and Scotland) to for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland - or the United Kingdom - or just the U.K.. The presence of the Cross of St. Andrew and St. George are obvious but not so obvious is the thin staggered cross in the Saltire portion of the flag. That is the Cross of St. Patrick. The staggering comes from the rules of flag making - the upper left corner (hoist) is the location of honour, so the Cross of St. Patrick is slightly lower than the Saltire and also the Cross of St. George. Because of this assymetry, one knows when the flag is right side up or not. If it is upside down the red of the Cross of St. Patrick is located above the majority of the white of the Saltire.
For Canadians the Royal Union Flag was the national flag until 1944. The Red Ensign followed suit with the Royal Union Flag embedded in it. Ontario and Manitoba have similar provincial flags. In the Canadian Red Ensign you will note the presence of the three lions (England), the Lion Rampant (Scotland), the harp (Ireland) and the three fleurs-de-lis (France). There is a debate as to what, if anything, the three maple leaves denoted. The Shield is of course the official shield of Canada.
A very distinctive flag is the Lion Rampant of Scotland, also known as the Royal Standard of Scotland. This flag is used only by a few Great Officers of State who represent the Sovereign in Scotland. It is commonly flown on royal residences in Scotland when the Sovereign is not present. It is, for all intents and purposes. the flag of the Sovereign. Interestingly, that flag is present in the Arms of Canada. For those of a Republican bent, this flag is considered unacceptable as it is the flag of the Sovereign. Republicans would prefer just the Saltire.
The flag of the European Union is commonly flown in Scotland and the United Kingdom. Details of BREXIT are well known, including at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36616028 . The flag of the European Union is displayed at the Burn's Night in Yellowknife in solidarity with the 62% of Scots who voted to remain in the European Union - as well as all those others who voted to remain. It is also displayed as a reminder of the vulnerability of democracy and of the need to vote.