Stands Scotland where it did?
Alas, poor country!
Almost afraid to know itself.
Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 3, 1605
The SNP’s historic election victory positions them for five years of majority government, the first time this has been achieved in the Scottish Parliament since Devolution. The ultimate objective for the government is a referendum, and following a Yes vote, an independent Scotland.
But rummage through the politics and you will find something just as historically significant. If you’ve been listening you’ll have discovered something vital for marketers in Scotland. The next five years will be as much about culture as politics.
Just listen to the first two speeches by Alex Salmond. They are studded with literary, cultural and geographic references, from artists and historians as diverse as Steinbeck, MacCaig, MacDiarmid, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun and The Corries. But not The Corries of the bitter ‘Flower of Scotland’ but of ‘Scotland will Flourish’ with its invocation: ‘Scotland will flourish secure in the knowledge, That we reap our own harvest and ring our own till, And let us be known for our kind hospitality, A hand that is open proper to friends, A hard working people, proud and unbending …’
No matter what your politics, the next five years present a uniquely positive time to be living and working in Scotland, and promoting Scotland’s products to the world. The appointment of Fiona Hyslop as a Cabinet Secretary responsible for Culture and External Affairs underlines the government’s commitment to a place on the bigger stage and the role of Scottish culture in establishing this place.
This means that if you manufacture a Scottish product, if you offer a service from Scotland or if you utilise any aspect of Scottishness in support of your business then you have a fabulous opportunity sitting waiting to be maximised. For the first time since 1999, and perhaps for decades previously, there will be a concentrated focus on a positive image of Scotland.
The time has come to present Scotland the best, Scotland the brand, a phrase I’m sure that will be remembered by older readers and reminded to me by Alice Wood, whose new venture, Edinburgh Restaurant Walking Tours, beautifully combines this new-found confidence in Scottish produce, Scottish restaurants and a global interest in discovering the best from Scotland.
Scotland is no longer a country ‘Almost afraid to know itself’. The next five years will combine a broadcast of everything that is good about the country and a determined effort to put right the failings and inequalities of the current state.
For marketing professionals, the first step should be to re-define your own strategy in the light of this situation. How can you maximise what you have, and what you offer? How can you position yourself and your product with this new cultural determinism? How can what you do, in our home market and abroad, benefit from this focus and ambition? We’re very rarely given an opportunity as significant as this. The challenge is: will you take it?