Scottish social media has for a while been full of stories about how Union Jacks are replacing Saltires on Scottish produce.
Many independence campaigners seem to believe that it’s a coordinated campaign to brainwash Scots into feeling British.
I suspect the truth is somewhat simpler: English consumers now react negatively to Scottish branding (i.e., Saltires, Scottish accents and so on). There was a rather revealing article in The Spectator today – it’s only discussing the Scottish accent, but everything in it would apply equally to other forms of Scottishness:
From the late 1990s onwards, you could hardly turn on the radio or television without hearing a Scottish voice telling you about mortgages, loans, terms and conditions. Soon the demand for Scottish voices moved beyond the financial sector: they began advertising everything from mobile phones to DFS sofas. […]
Then came the independence referendum. For the first time, English advertisers, who’d always championed the use of Scottish voices in their commercials, heard a lot of Scottish people saying quite unkind things about England. Even though the nationalists lost the vote, they were the more voluble side, so the die was cast. It’s only got worse with Nicola Sturgeon’s sour stewardship of the SNP. […]
To the English advertiser, a Scottish voice now sounded more treacherous than trustworthy. News International, BT, Guinness and the Co-op are among those who appear to have dropped Scottish voices from their advertising. Of course, they won’t admit to losing faith in the Scottish burr. They’ll say, quite truthfully, that the greatest population density is in the south-east, so it makes commercial sense to use voices from this region.
If this is true, the supermarkets really have to remove the Saltires from the products they’re selling in England from a commercial point of view. Of course they could still use Saltires in Scotland, but they probably think it’s too expensive to use separate packaging for the Scottish market.
(All of the above of course only applies to the domestic market. The increasing use of Union Jacks on Scottish exports is probably due to Brexit and the associated nostalgic imperialism, and they might think it actually works better than the Saltire in some export markets. I very much doubt that Scotland has got less popular abroad, however, so it’s probably again a decision made by and for England.)
It’s hard to see what Scotland can do about it in the short term. It might be impossible to maintain Scotland as a positive brand in England while pursuing independence. After all, most consumers don’t react positively to foreign flags. For instance, in Denmark you only ever really see the Danish flags on products – everything else is flagless – so why would anybody expect Saltires on products in English supermarkets? After all, we never see Dutch or Spanish flags on our tomatoes, or Danish flags on the bacon.
What’s really annoying, though, is the way we’re getting swamped by Union Jacks in most supermarkets. The only way forward is surely a boycot of all such products until the supermarkets realise it’s in their own commercial interest to package most things separately for the Scottish market (or simply stop using flags anywhere).