NEW research commissioned by The National newspaper shows the importance people place on Scotland’s brand identity.

The polling company Find Out Now asked: Do You Prefer To See The Scottish Saltire Or The Union Jack On Scottish Produce?

The answers showed significantly higher levels of positive replies for clear Scottish provenance than similar polling carried out in recent years.

The new data, compiled by Find Out Now, shows 71% of the 1,094 people surveyed said they would prefer to see the Saltire on Scottish produce, 17% were ambivalent, and 12% said they would prefer Scottish produce to be marketed under the Union Flag.

The National:

In 2019, 56 Degree Insight interviewed 534 Scottish residents asking: When food shopping in Scotland, if you were to see two identical food items available at the same price, one with a UK flag and labelled "100% British product" and the other with a Scottish flag and labelled "100% Scottish product", which would you be more likely to buy? 56% said they would choose the product branded ‘Scottish’ whereas only 4% would choose the ‘British’ labelling.

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The remaining 39% were ambivalent, saying it would ‘make no difference’.

The new research by Find Out Now shows 68% of over-65s favour Scottish branding, 6% were ambivalent, and 25% would prefer Scottish produce to be under the Great British banner.

The 56–64-year-old age bracket is the most passionate in their wish to see Scottish food and drink labelled as Scottish: 77% say they would like a Saltire, 13% were ambivalent, 10% preferred a Union Flag. 66% of 18 – 24-year-olds wanted Scottish branding while only 4% said they would rather the colours of Great Britain, with 29% ambivalent.

Support for Scotland’s brand is strong across the nation. In Central Scotland, 74% wanted Scotland’s produce labelled as Scottish, 8% were ambivalent, 17% preferred the Union Flag.

In Glasgow, 79% supported Scotland’s brand, with 11% for Great British colours, and another 11% were ambivalent.

The lowest response in favour of Scottish branding was in the North-East where 65% supported the Saltire, 23% were ambivalent, and 11% favoured the Union Flag.

In 2019, 56 Degree Insight found Older consumers were more likely to choose Scottish over British – 66% of those aged 45-64 compared with 43% of the under 35s. 

It’s not that the younger group were more likely to buy British, they were simply more ambivalent (54% said in the 2019 poll that it would make no difference).

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Those living in Mid Scotland and Fife were most likely to buy products labelled Scottish (69%), whilst those in the South (Borders and Dumfries & Galloway) were rather more likely to buy British branded products (13%). 

Despite that however, in the South, the overwhelming majority would choose a Scottish branded product (58%).

Find Out Now also broke down the responses according to political outlook. Across voters of each of the main parties, among those who voted for Brexit and those who voted Remain, the majority of respondents were clearly in favour of Scotland’s brand.

Many in the business of selling Scottish produce know it is not a question of flags on food, but market share based on Scotland’s name, with its deserved reputation for high standards.

“Scotland’s food and drink is globally renowned for its quality and sustainability. Our whisky and salmon industries are leading the way abroad, but the reputation of all of our sectors – from beer to bread, and biscuits to beef – is growing,” says Fiona Richmond, head of regional food at Scotland Food and Drink.

“We see the same sentiment in the domestic market. Restaurants are quick to mark Scottish provenance in menus and our retailers are increasingly seeing the value in highlighting Scottish products.

"Research also shows that up to 60% of people in the UK are willing to pay a premium on products with Scottish provenance.

“We haven’t yet reached the industry’s full potential, but with an established reputation as a land of food and drink, and with the support of businesses and Government, the sky is the limit.”

While I understand the polling focus – a reasonable question given the UK Government’s GREAT British campaign has seen Scottish produce covered by Union flags – most countries don’t slap flags on their food. What really matters is clear, honest provenance.

Ruth Watson is the founder of the Keep Scotland the Brand campaign.