Minister's U-turn lets motorists fly the flag

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The Independent Online

Patriotic motorists will be able to display national flags and symbols on their vehicle number plates, a Transport minister announced yesterday.

John Spellar said the Union flag, the Cross of St George, the Scottish Saltire or the Welsh Dragon could all appear legally on registration plates from the new year. The minister said: "It is what the people of England, Scotland and Wales have asked for and strengthens their feeling of national identity."

Drivers will also be allowed to include the letters ENG, SCO or CYM on plates. An overhaul in September banned all national symbols on number plates except for the European Union flag with the letters GB underneath.

The policy was reviewed and reversed after complaints from Scottish and Welsh nationalists. However, the Automobile Association warned that many motorists would not know that they must also display a GB sticker when driving abroad.

The head of roads and transport policy, Paul Watters, said it was a "tremendous drawback" that not having regulation EU plates could land motorists in hot water with foreign authorities. He said: "We are worried that people from Scotland, Wales or England will sail off abroad with their Saltire, dragon or St George's cross and will fall foul of the law," he said.

Although the law has not changed yet, Mr Spellar called on British police not to prosecute those carrying the symbols on their plates from now on.