Glasgow 2014: 'No question' of Red Arrows changing smoke trails

The Red Arrows at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games opening ceremony Image copyright PA
Image caption Wednesday night's flypast took place as the Queen entered Celtic Park

There was "no question" the Red Arrows would change the colour of smoke trails to represent the Scottish flag at the Glasgow 2014 opening ceremony, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says.

It follows reports the RAF aerobatic team was forced to change its smoke from blue and white to its usual red, white and blue at the last minute.

Mr Fallon said the team "always used red, white and blue".

It comes ahead of the referendum on Scottish independence on 18 September.

But Mr Fallon added: "I don't think we should drag politics into this."

The RAF has also denied it was ordered to change the colour of the smoke from Scottish colours to the usual British colours.

'UK ambassadors'

The issue hit the headlines after a media pack handed to journalists before Wednesday night's ceremony stated the jets would "fly overhead in a V-formation trailing blue and white smoke".

The Ministry of Defence responded by saying the Red Arrows team were "ambassadors for the United Kingdom and are famous for their red, white and blue smoke trails which represent the whole of the UK".

Image copyright PA
Image copyright PA

Glasgow 2014 later said there had been discussions over using blue and white smoke but that it was not "formally requested".

A spokesman said: "Glasgow 2014 would like to clarify that it was its ceremonies producers who had initial conversations about Red Arrows trailing blue and white smoke to represent the host nation's Saltire but this was never formally requested.

"We were delighted with the participation of the Red Arrows who deployed their standard trail of red, white and blue in last night's ceremony," he added.

The Scottish government, meanwhile, said it had not approached the Red Arrows to request blue and white smoke, adding: "Any claims to the contrary are completely untrue."

'Spectacular ceremony'

Speaking in Glasgow on Friday, Mr Fallon said: "The Red Arrows are part of the Royal Air Force and they've always used red, white and blue so there was no question of that being changed.

"I don't think we should drag politics into this, the Games are bigger than that.

"The Red Arrows were part of a spectacular opening ceremony and I hope we can put that behind us now and everybody can get on and enjoy the Games."

In July 1999, the Red Arrows flew over central Edinburgh trailing white smoke to mark the state opening of the Scottish Parliament.

The BBC TV report of the events refers to a plan for the planes to later "break off" from their formation to create a Saltire in the sky, although this was not shown in its coverage.

The MoD said it was unable to confirm the details of fly-pasts from several years ago.

The BBC has been told that the use of blue and white smoke at the Commonwealth Games was discussed at a meeting involving the Red Arrows on 20 February and that the Red Arrows made no objection to the idea.

The BBC understands the production company believed blue and white smoke would be used but only became aware this might not be the case the day before the opening ceremony.

More than 4,500 athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations and territories paraded during Wednesday's opening ceremony, which featured performances from Rod Stewart, Susan Boyle and John Barrowman.