Scot­land is now hor­ri­bly di­vided

A new pro­mo­tional cam­paign can only offer a fu­ture Scot­land shaped by out­side forces,

The Scotsman - - Scottish Perspective - writes Joyce Mcmil­lan

To para­phrase Scot­land’s for­mer Makar Liz Lochhead, who once said the same thing about moth­ers, no­body’s gov­ern­ment can’t never do noth­ing right – at least, not af­ter 11 years in power. This week, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment launched a new ad­ver­tis­ing and brand­ing cam­paign de­signed to pro­mote Scot­land not only to tourists, but also to po­ten­tial in­com­ers who might want to move here, and to com­pa­nies con­sid­er­ing inward in­vest­ment.

It is called Scot­land Is Now, and its pri­mary tar­gets are Lon­don, China, and the United States. Its main video ad­ver­tise­ment is swish and good-look­ing, a hand­some mix of tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary images of Scot­land; and its pur­pose is crys­tal clear to any­one who has stud­ied the data on Scot­land’s im­age be­yond its borders. For if Scot­land has a strong “brand im­age”, it re­mains one stub­bornly as­so­ci­ated with the past – with films and TV se­ries like Brave­heart and Out­lander; with cas­tles and is­lands, and with a gen­eral im­age of a wild and un­de­vel­oped land, far from moder­nity, whose more am­bi­tious and for­ward-look­ing cit­i­zens would be well ad­vised to leave, and make their lives in Lon­don, Los An­ge­les, or Shang­hai.

And while Scot­land has all that, and many tourists en­joy it, it is hardly the im­age that is likely to at­tract high-tech inward in­vestors, or to en­cour­age the move­ment of young peo­ple into the coun­try that Scot­land ur­gently needs.

From its ti­tle on down, the Scot­land Is Now cam­paign is there­fore de­signed to ad­dress that mis­per­cep­tion of the place as a pic­turesque back­wa­ter; and to link the idea of Scot­land not only with ed­u­ca­tion, as­pi­ra­tion, and cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy, but also with a fu­ture in which only coun­tries that boldly face up to the “in­con­ve­nient truth” of cli­mate change can hope to thrive. It is, in other words, well pitched to­wards com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als look­ing for a place to build a fu­ture; and although it of­fers a glossy mar­ke­teers’ vi­sion of Scot­land now, it con­tains enough truth about the coun­try’s po­ten­tial to be per­sua­sive and ef­fec­tive.

Yet for all that, some com­men­ta­tors have been play­ing the daft lad­die, pro­fess­ing to find its slo­gan empty of mean­ing; and they do so be­cause the cam­paign is as­so­ci­ated with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, which, 11 years on, lives un­der per­ma­nent sus­pi­cion of car­ing for noth­ing but the cause of Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence.

The luke­warm re­cep­tion for Scot­land Is Now here at home re­minds us, in other words, of the pro­found truth that if Scot­land is “Now”, then one as­pect of to­day’s pol­i­tics it re­flects with heart­break­ing ac­cu­racy is the ten­dency to­wards pro­found and com­pletely dis­abling po­lit­i­cal division, of­ten on mat­ters of cul­ture and iden­tity. The 55 per cent (or so) who op­pose Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence would ap­par­ently rather put up with any de­gree of Brexit-re­lated in­com­pe­tence and dis­re­spect from the UK gov­ern­ment than un­dergo the hor­ror of a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum; the 40-45 per cent who sup­port in­de­pen­dence have not gone away, but are wait­ing for the time when any sec­ond ref­er­en­dum will not end in fail­ure.

And even within the SNP, the pres­sures cre­ated by this pro­found stale­mate are caus­ing strains and fis­sures; not only on whether the party should seek to ex­er­cise its man­date for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum be­fore it runs out in 2021, but also on what kind of “Scot­land Now” it will be propos­ing, in an ef­fort to re­unite the Scot­tish peo­ple. The SNP’S so-called Growth Com­mis­sion, chaired by po­lit­i­cal lob­by­ist and for­mer MSP Andrew Wil­son, has not yet pro­duced its fi­nal re­port, but this week, sig­nals ap­peared that af­ter inspiring many of its troops in 2014 with the idea of a Scot­land that would aim for a Nordic model of pros­per­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity and so­cial jus­tice, the SNP might now be about con­sider in­stead the free-mar­ket, heav­ily dereg­u­lated New Zealand model of how to run a suc­cess­ful econ­omy of four or five mil­lion peo­ple, in to­day’s global en­vi­ron­ment.

Now, in a less di­vided na­tion, the ad­vent of this idea could gen­er­ate some vi­tal, even cut­ting-edge civic dis­cus­sion. First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon is clearly a so­cial demo­crat through and through; and given the rank­ings which con­tinue to show Nordic­style so­cial democ­racy as by far the most suc­cess­ful sys­tem on the planet, in terms of pros­per­ity and hu­man de­vel­op­ment, my guess is that she, and a ma­jor­ity of SNP sup­port­ers, will take a lot of per­suad­ing that that su­per­suc­cess­ful model is no longer right for our times, and can­not be re­booted to make it so.

Scot­land’s politi­cians and their sup­port­ers could there­fore now be shap­ing up for an ex­cit­ing and in­ter­na­tion­ally sig­nif­i­cant de­bate on the kind of fu­ture we ac­tu­ally want, in Scot­land now. Ex­cept for this: that more than half of Scot­land’s vot­ers seem in­creas­ingly ir­ri­tated by the idea of Scot­land hav­ing any au­ton­o­mous strat­egy, since it might just be a ramp for an­other push to in­de­pen­dence; and ever more doggedly de­ter­mined that we should sim­ply ac­cept the ma­jor­ity decisions of the United King­dom as a whole, whether they suit Scot­land or not.

In hap­pier times, when na­tional bound­aries were be­com­ing less im­por­tant, when supra­na­tional co-op­er­a­tion was in fash­ion, when the EU was strong and grow­ing, and when dif­fer­ences of iden­tity could be nu­anced and lived with in deals like the Good Fri­day Agree­ment – that dif­fer­ence of opin­ion about Scot­land’s ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion mat­tered less; among the 75 per cent who sup­ported de­vo­lu­tion in 1997, thrilling de­bates were pos­si­ble about the kind of Scot­land we hoped home rule would help to pro­mote.

To­day, though – now the huge cen­trifu­gal forces of Brexit have been un­leashed – to talk much of Scot­land’s dis­tinc­tive fu­ture is to rile resur­gent Bri­tish na­tion­al­ism, and, in some ar­eas, to in­vite se­ri­ous con­flict with the West­min­ster gov­ern­ment. To­day, we face a far starker choice than in 2014 be­tween na­tional re­jec­tion of West­min­ster rule, and na­tional qui­es­cence in it, what­ever it brings. So far, to the dis­may of Stur­geon and her party, we have cho­sen qui­es­cence; we are too di­vided to do oth­er­wise. And that sug­gests that what­ever we say about Scot­land Is Now, the fu­ture we can offer to those tar­geted in the cam­paign – the po­ten­tial visi­tors and in­vestors, the pos­si­ble fu­ture stu­dents and work­ers – will not be of our own mak­ing; but will be shaped by politi­cians else­where, with vastly dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties in mind.

0 Tourism sec­re­tary Fiona Hyslop said the cam­paign would bring to­gether all the mes­sages that pro­mote Scot­land

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