Scotland: SNP and Greens 'set for independence majority' says host

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Six shields repainted in English red and white have become visible for the first time on the East dial of the iconic Westminster landmark since the 1930s. The shields were restored as part of the ongoing £80m renovation to Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower which commenced four years ago.

Specifically, the St George’s shields restoration was announced in July 2018 while England was playing in the World Cup in Russia.

Under the project, six shields above each dial will display the St George’s flag, with a red cross on a white background.

Separately, rows of newly restored shields decorated with the emblems of all four UK nations and significant points in UK history will be on display on each side of the tower above the Belfry and above the Ayrton Light.

The eight shields will include the shamrock for Ireland, the thistle for Scotland and the leek for Wales.

But the SNP today claimed the move to have St George shields above all four dials showed that “England ruled the roost in the United Kingdom” as they push ahead with their plans for a second independence referendum.

A senior party source added: “The placement of the flags seem to make clear about the dominance of England in the UK.”

SNP MPs Tommy Sheppard and Pete Wishart previously complained about the move to put St George’s flags across all four sides of Big Ben in 2018.

Mr Sheppard, Edinburgh East MP, said: “Maybe they are assuming that in the future the Union will be dissolved.”

Mr Wishart, who represents Perthshire North, added: “This is a welcome boost for Scottish independence as Westminster prepares to become an England-only parliament.

“People will, however, be forgiven for thinking that transition began long ago – as Scotland continues to be sidelined and ignored on the biggest issues facing our country.”

The St George’s shields had become blackened following high pollution levels in London during the Victorian era and officials then decided in the 1930s to paint them black to save on upkeep.

However, House of Commons officials have insisted was merely returning it to the original Victorian colour scheme, put forward by architect Charles Berry as part of the £80m renovation project.

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The 177-year-old tower has been swathed in scaffolding since 2017 when craftsmen began work to refurbish its stonework, reglaze the four clock dials, and repaint the ironwork.

The restoration project is due to be completed next year, when the famous 13-tonne Big Ben bell, which has been largely silenced while the work has been carried out, will chime again.

In a statement this afternoon, Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, said: “While we are all longing for the sound of Big Ben marking the time, and for the scaffolding to be removed from the tower – I think we will all agree at the unveiling next year, our patience has been worth it.”

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