Flags are like fireworks. They look pretty against the sky but in the wrong hands can be very dangerous.

When waved in celebration, flags can be wonderful but when wielded in confrontation, they are destructive.

And it is the flag waving confrontation that we have seen more of in recent times.

Flag fever has reached a political peak this week. MSP’s, paid handsomely for their thoughtful contributions and efforts at solving the country’s problems, this week got themselves in a fix over whether the European Union flag should continue to be flown outside Holyrood along with the Scottish Saltire and UK Union flag.

Then we had the rather sad sight of Nigel Farage, Ann Widdicombe and the other Brexit Party MEPs gleefully waving little Union flags in the European Parliament with Farage stating: “Once we’ve left, we are never coming back. We are going. We’re gone”

Parliament presiding speaker, Mairead McGuinness, put him straight “Sit down, put your flags away and take them with you, if you’re leaving now” she told them.

Farage and co.’s stunt was designed to antagonize and goad his fellow MEP’s from the institution he said he “hated” in the same speech.

Their response was a little more inclusive, a rendition of Auld Lang Syne to mark the final day in the Parliament of UK MEPs.

The SNP MSPs at Holyrood decided to keep the flagfest going and several put EU flags in their windows yesterday in a concerted act of something or other.

The Union flag has been reclaimed once again by the right and the far right. It was once seized by extremists and racists in the 1970s when the National Front would march through English, and sometimes Scottish, cities brandishing the flag, then English football hooligans carried it as they disgraced a nation all over Europe.

It all led to normal right-thinking people distancing themselves from the flag.

The flag was given back some cred when it was a fashion item in the late1990s in the attempt at rebranding Britain ‘Cool Britannia’ in the New Labour Britpop era

Geri Halliwell’s dress, famously, Noel Gallagher’s guitar. Even David Bowie once wore a union jack coat on an album cover.

When they are used commercially they cause a furore. With campaigns waged on social media to boycott Scottish companies that use the Union flag.

The Scottish Saltire is now having a similar identity crisis. The flag is now the image of the All Under One Banner pro-independence marches. “A sea of Saltires” the captions read. When there are counter protests it is always under Union flags, them an us.

Many Scots who do not favour independence but consider the saltire their flag may be having second thoughts.

I heard recently of someone, a proud Scot throughout their life, who had a small, discreet saltire on the aerial of their car but who then removed it because they thought it now would be seen as a sign of supporting independence.

This happens when flags are used to create a them and us divide. This is OUR flag, is the message put out.

The flag become exclusive, the property of a group or an ideology and take us back to the days when kings led armies into battle behind their standard and when flags of the vanquished were seized as a trophy and sign of victory.

Governments use them too for their own purposes to build allegiance. Boris Johnson is reportedly thinking of demanding the Union flag is carried on projects in Scotland funded by the UK Government.

The EU has done this for years, of course, with the blue and gold starred flag on building sites at roads or developments created with the help of EU cash.

The Scottish Government, when it rebranded from the Scottish Executive in 2007, ditched the previous logo, which featured a crown, two lions and a shield bearing emblems of the four UK nations and replaced it with a Saltire.

Flags are everywhere, on public buildings, on cars in emojis and deep inside people’s heads.

They can say this is where I’m from and who I am but can can also be seen as challenging.

For signifying identity, demanding allegiance and excluding the other, flags are useful tools. Fabulous for parading round the track at the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

But when it comes to meeting the basic human needs and solving the many problems we have, wherever in the world you just happen to be from, I’m afraid flags are really just a rag on a stick.