So, Marks and Spencer promoted ‘English’ or ‘British’ whisky on their website but declined to use ‘Scottish’. They have tried to pass this off as a mistake. But is it something more?
Are we really supposed to believe that such a comprehensive and consistent downgrading of Scotland was an error rather than a matter of policy? Are we seriously expected to believe that there is no political agenda at work here? When this suppression of Scottish branding is so generalised, how might we reasonably pretend to ourselves that it is no more than a coincidence of cock-ups?
There is clear intent here. The intent to diminish Scotland in the eyes of the world and in the minds of Scotland’s people. Some will dismiss such talk as paranoid exaggeration. But, as with bank crashes and Westminster scandals, every instance is a one-off until you step back far enough to see the bigger picture. Do that, and a pattern emerges. A pattern of systematic denigration of everything that is most closely identified with Scotland.
The effort to obliterate ‘Scotland the brand’ fits precisely with the campaign to undermine confidence in our public services and delegitimise our democratic institutions. For British Nationalists, it is always and entirely about making Scotland less. Only by making Scotland less can they make the British state more.
Sixty years ago, I sat in a cavernous and freezing classroom of the infant school in a small Fife village. On the wall behind the teacher’s desk there hung what, to the then diminutive me, looked like a huge map bearing a legend proclaiming it to represent a place called ‘Great Britain’. Other than it’s impressive dimensions, there was one particularly striking aspect of this map’s appearance. The lower half, portraying England, was a mass of colour and detail. The counties were all picked out in shades of green and yellow and pink. A tangle of lines in different styles indicated every railway line and every class of road. Landmarks, hamlets, villages, towns and cities were all named in type appropriate to their size and significance, creating a mystifying jumble of words close-packed, curving, tilting and wriggling as they competed for space.
The map was designed, not only to inform, but to impress.
The top part of the map was starkly different. In contrast to the bright, busy complexity of England, Scotland was portrayed as a desert. The word ‘Scotland’ sprawled lazily across an expanse of pristine white broken only by the straggling lines of the rail routes connecting with England like the probing tentacles of some monstrous parasite. Dotted along these lines were a handful of place names; seemingly placed there to explain and justify the railway rather than to mark centres of human habitation. Glasgow. Edinburgh. Perth. Aberdeen. Wick. That was about it. Away from the extension of England’s presence, there was nothing. Scotland was represented as an empty. A land devoid of places. Devoid of people. Devoid of significance.
Not unnaturally, I looked to the teacher, Miss Marshall, for an explanation as to why the map of Scotland was so barren when even at my young age I knew it to be full of places and people. In my head, I can still hear her reply,
“It’s because Scotland is not important.”
This was stated in a flat, off-hand manner which implied Scotland’s paucity of status was a matter of empirical fact not to be disputed. Here I was, a child of Scotland being taught by someone carrying great authority that, as a Scottish child, I was of no importance. How could this not have a profound effect? Even if it was, in my case, the very opposite of the subjugating effect intended.
I remember that map as the British state’s supercilious slighting of Scotland in cartographic form. I look at the BBC’s weather map, and I realise things haven’t changed much in sixty years. The demeaning message is the same. Only the technology is different.
If this humbling propaganda manifests in maps, why would we suppose it hasn’t found its way into the sphere of marketing? How likely is it that this insidiously powerful tool of mass manipulation would not be exploited? Recognising the aims and objectives of the British state in relation to Scotland, the question is not why would the British establishment seek to suppress Scottish commercial branding, but why wouldn’t they?
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