The biggest ever campaign to sell Scotland to the world has been launched - to attract new high-spending visitors, international students, major investors and “migrant talent”.
A new national brand – Scotland Is Now – has been created as part of the bid to set the country apart from its major competitors and trigger a shift in gears in its global appeal and success.
Scotland will be promoted as “one of the most open countries in the world” under the campaign, the first ever joint initiative between the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, Scottish Development International and Universities Scotland.
A key message of the campaign will be that the country is willing to “opens its arms to new people to build a strong economy and culture.” Major selling points will include the number of world-leading universities Scotland boasts, its status as the UK’s second largest financial services hub after London and its high international quality of life ratings.
Andy Scott’s Kelpies sculptures in Falkirk, the Queensferry Crossing and Dundee’s new V&A museum of design will all be deployed as modern-day icons of Scotland. The new “baby box” initiative, efforts to welcome more than 2,000 refugees to Scotland in recent years, and commitments on gender equality and LGBTI rights will be used to promote Scotland overseas.
It is hoped Scotland’s biggest companies, tourism operators and the major creative industries will throw their weight behind the campaign, which is expected to run for several years. It will pitch Scotland as a country “challenging new thinking, inviting new investment, creating new opportunities, supporting new industry and driving technology that embraces humanity across the world.”
Among those featuring in the campaign are Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn, who has led efforts to rid Scotland of homelessness, Dured Alhalabe, a Syrian refugee who has settled in Scotland, Stephanie Inglis, the Commonwealth Games judo star who has battled back from a motorbike accident, Glasgow University prosthetics expert Dr Ravinder Dahiya, Rebecca Weir, Scotland’s first female coppersmith, and Mark Hogarth, creative director of Harris Tweed Hebrides.
Mr Alhalabe said: “When I first arrived in Scotland I was afraid, because it’s a new country and it’s very different from Syria, but all those worries disappeared as I started to meet people. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. It made me feel like I was in my own country and I was really happy.”
Mr Hogarth said: “I think Scottish people are driven by what we can do better and a pride in producing products of a very, very high calibre. It’s not just about what happened in the past and the heritage, it’s about what we’re doing now and how we can do it better.
“People should visit Scotland now for several reasons. You’ve got an incredible landscape that is completely unique but, more importantly, it’s the people. It’s the people who infuse that landscape with life, infuse the cities with a vibrancy, infuse the countryside with a romance and also an enthusiasm and a welcome you’ll get in very few places.” Around £6 million is being spent to kick-start the campaign, which is launching simultaneously in New York, San Francisco, China, London and Glasgow, where VisitScotland is staging its annual international travel trade fair this week. Previous acclaimed campaigns to promote Australia, New Zealand, California and Scandinavia have all been studied as part of the year-long development of the initiative.
Launching the campaign during a visit to China, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The message at the heart of ‘Scotland is Now’ is of a bold and positive country offering the warmest of welcomes, rich in history and heritage, and with a progressive, pioneering and inclusive approach to our future. The campaign will inspire people to be part of Scotland’s future and tell its story through those who know it best – people who have embraced living, working, studying, visiting and investing here.”
Speaking at the VisitScotland Expo event at the SECC in Glasgow, tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop added: “This is the first time we’ve had a campaign to brings together all the different messages that promote Scotland internationally.
“It’s about having a collective message about living, working, studying and investing in Scotland. The idea is that everyone works with the same materials, the same campaign and the same messages, although individual stories will focus on different aspects.
“There are many challenges at the moment – Brexit is certainly one of them – but we’d want to develop these messages anyway and assert a better understanding of Scotland.
“It’s very much required as of now. We’re in competition with other countries that are also trying to make the most of their assets. This is the first time we’ve brought all our assets together under one campaign so they can help support and promote each other.”
Charlie Smith, VisitScotland’s director of marketing, said: “There have been a few attempts in the past to do this kind of thing, but for whatever reason it’s not really happened. This is really the first time there has been a singular market platform for Scotland.
“We’ve looked very closely at a lot of other markets and the countries that do this kind of thing very well.
“There is a lot of common sense behind it, but there are also challenges that we’ve got to face. We need to show people that we welcome all-comers to Scotland. That’s never been more important.”