Union Jacks and Scottish accents

union jack supermarket photo
Photo by noodlepie

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).

10 thoughts on “Union Jacks and Scottish accents

    • 06/09/2018 at 23:37
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      Och, it’d be lovely to have flags on everything – I’m sure some people would be trailing the supermarket shelves for unknown flags and buy those products excitedly! But supermarkets in all countries seem to believe most consumers are xenophobes. 🙁

      Reply
  • 07/09/2018 at 04:50
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    I’ve always been of the opinion flags of any colour are not why I go shopping, politics has no place in supermarket shelves, this issue is purely of supermarkets own making, they have made a rod for their back and English Scottophobes will use it relentlessly against them,
    Go back a few years and who amongst us studied produce to see if it had a saltire or a union flag on it?

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    • 08/09/2018 at 13:08
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      I think it’s so sad that you believe politics has no bearing in supermarkets. Politics are everywhere unless you stick your head in the sand. I fully support my country in everything I can I am proud of my heratige. I very much regret Scottish produce being high jacked by the butchers apron.

      Reply
  • 07/09/2018 at 15:45
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    Buy local whenever you can. I’ve been doing this for a while and now buy almost nothing from any of the supermarkets. It was difficult at first, but after a while it becomes the norm.

    Moreover, I end up with a lot less plastic and a lot less waste food.

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  • 07/09/2018 at 16:45
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    If it’s got a Union Jack I put it back!

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  • 07/09/2018 at 19:57
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    Nope – this is simply down to certain supermarkets doing the bidding for the British establishment. I’ve personally delivered numerous loads of Scottish berries ( all Saltire branded) to Aldi and Lidl distribution centres in England. They wouldn’t be repeating those orders if they weren’t selling the goods.

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  • 07/09/2018 at 20:28
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    It wouldn’t have bothered me before, but if it’s got a Jack I’ll be outing it back.

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  • 08/09/2018 at 00:41
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    Well …. I’d bet my kids
    They don’t stick a Union Jack on everything in Northern Ireland’s shops ???
    I don’t care if the Union flag is on English produce… but when I want to buy Scottish I should be able to identify it easily.
    Everyone should ask themselves if they want to know the country of origin?
    British tells me nothing when I want Aberdeen Angus steak .

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  • 09/09/2018 at 14:55
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    I was reared on Scotch Beef, Scottish Lamb etc as quality local produce. Also Scottish Government Food Standards on for food production are higher than in England. Now when I go into a supermarket to buy beef or lamb, I risk my eyesight, I am well into my 60s, having to wade through Union Flagged trays of meat trying to find the tiny mention of source. I want to buy local and but I should be able to buy local produce marked as local produce.

    Reply

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