THE controversial “We love the Highland Clearances” image which sparked offence when it was used on a hotel chain’s website was provided by Visit Scotland, The National can reveal.

Visit Scotland, a public body tasked with promoting tourism across the country, has deleted the image from its free resource database following the outcry.

It comes after The Address Collective, a hotel chain based in Ireland, used the controversial image on the website of a new Glasgow location.

On the “our offers” section of the site, The Address Collective used an image including phrases such as “We love the Highland Clearances”, “We love Parsimony”, and less controversial slogans such as “We love Robert Burns”.

The National: A screenshot from the Address Collective's Glasgow website showing the controversial 'We [love] the Highland Clearances' imageA screenshot from the Address Collective's Glasgow website showing the controversial 'We [love] the Highland Clearances' image (Image: Address Collective)

After The National reported on concerns, a spokesperson for the hotel chain said they were “deeply sorry” for any offence caused and that it had been removed from their website.

This paper was later told that the image had been sourced from Visit Scotland, which provides a free media database to be used for commercial purposes.

The image could indeed be found on the government body’s website, alongside a disclaimer saying it should “always [be used to] promote Scotland’s tourism in a positive way”.

A separate disclaimer stated: “You can use this asset for marketing and advertising campaigns promoting Scotland as a tourism destination without paying royalties or license fees.

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“It can be used for creating promotional materials, advertisements, and digital campaigns to highlight Scotland's attractions and experiences to encourage people to visit. However, it can't be used for any other purpose that doesn't promote Scotland.”

The photo in question showed a part of an artwork called “We love real life Scotland” by visual artist Professor Ross Sinclair, which was displayed at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in 2015 and 2016.

In an abstract to accompany the work, written in 2015, Sinclair said: “It’s a celebration, a commiseration, a joy, a cringe and all at the same time.”

The National:

The artist previously told The National that he had no idea that an image of his work had been used out of context on The Address Collective website, adding that the “We love the Highland Clearances” slogan had proven so controversial it was not to be included in future displays.

A spokesperson for Visit Scotland said that the image on their database included context that was crucial and should have been kept in place when it was reused.

They said: “Our media toolkit terms and conditions outline how images can be used. This includes crediting sources and ensuring that users do not mislead or misrepresent the assets.

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“As part of the description of this image, which was of an art exhibit displayed outside GoMA, we clearly stated that ‘the works are both celebratory and critical; asking just what it is to be Scottish’. It would be our expectation that this description be included in any use of this image to ensure its context is clearly understood by the intended audience.

“In light of recent concerns raised about its use, we have removed this image from our media library.”

The Address Collective said it wanted to make clear that it did not blame Visit Scotland for any backlash, saying that the body had been extremely helpful as they looked to expand their operation into the country.

The hotel firm runs three locations in Ireland and will open its Glasgow location later in 2023.