BRITAIN could lose many millions of pounds in brand value if there is a Yes vote in next year's referendum on Scottish independence, says the boss of a leading consultancy firm.
I have been moved to comment recently on the No campaign's habit of constantly cycling through their little catalogue of scare stories. What happens is this. In what has all the hallmarks of a coordinated effort, Project Fear, the British parties and the mainstream media will pound away at a particular issue - say, currency, for example. After a few days, when the rebuttals - almost exclusively online - start to gain some traction, and the questions being asked of the British nationalists grow more persistent and awkward, that issue will be dropped in favour of one of their other gobbets of grinding negativity. We saw this recently when the Spanish Prime Minister, very obligingly and as if on cue, made some comments relating to EU membership just at the moment when the Britnats were starting to get into bother with the currency thing.
All of this is very tedious, of course. It contributes nothing to the debate. In fact, the evident purpose is to close down debate and deter people from engaging. If, however, this article is an example of Project Fear attempting to come up with something new, then it might be preferable if they stuck to the stuff with which they have grown familiar through long, incessant, tiresome repetition.
Not that I am dismissing the value of national branding. Far from it. My background is in this field and I am very conscious of the importance of a strong brand image. I am also fully aware that this is relevant to nations as well as businesses and other organisations.
But this article has not been written for the purpose of examining the issue of national brand value. It has been written solely and exclusively as a piece of Project Fear propaganda, with the subject of branding being little more than a flimsy pretext.
Note that there is no mention of Scotland's brand value. Neither is their any analysis of the contribution that Scotland makes to the overall brand value of the UK. Both of these are points which would have been regarded as crucial to a comprehensive, objective examination of the subject. Instead, every effort is made to suggest that the strength of the UK brand value is entirely a function of David Cameron's efforts to sell "GREAT Britain".
Note too the attitude of Better Together. The British nationalists can think only in terms of how the UK enhances the Scottish brand. In reality, we have no way of telling whether this is the case. It might well be that the UK detracts from the Scottish brand. In fact, this is highly likely to be the case due to the effect of brand dilution. Any data that might expose this effect is carefully omitted.
Another glaring omission is any acknowledgement of the potential that independence has for strengthening the Scottish brand. Quite apart from the short- to medium-term gains from the "spotlight" effect of the referendum campaign, subsequent negotiations and independence as an "event", there are longer-term factors to be taken into consideration. The inevitable increase in mentions of Scotland in the media, for example. Where previously Scotland was subsumed in the term UK or Britain or even (unforgivably!) England, in news coverage of the EU, UN etc., that will no longer be the case after independence. A moment's thought will reveal countless other such examples.
The point of this is that it all adds to brand visibility, increases familiarity and, thereby, strengthens the brand.
But a brand does not gain strength solely from visibility and familiarity. There is also the matter of associations - or connotations. What the brand means. What it conjures in people's minds. Any analysis worthy of the name would take account of this. It would certainly examine the very real possibility that independence would help Scotland shed some of the negative connotations and associations of the British state in favour of more positive associations of its own choosing. A great deal more could be said about that.
Independence would certainly allow Scotland to develop a more distinctive brand unencumbered by the disadvantages of being associated with a bigger brand over which it has no control. Look at it this way. The UK's involvement in the Iraq mess was the equivalent of a product's brand spokesperson being embroiled in an under-age sex scandal.
The claim that the UK could be disadvantaged in terms of brand value by Scotland asserting its rightful constitutional status may have some merit. What has yet to be explained is why Scotland should forfeit the enormous potential of its own brand in order to help sell Cameron's "GREAT Britian".