Graham Berry: By banding together, Scotland can become the premium brand

ASKING anyone in the East about the Scottish brand, prompts only the traditional images with which we are familiar and none of which conjure up the range of premium produce which Scotland has to offer.

The economic gloom in Scotland should, therefore, be used as an opportunity to create a single, overarching, distinctive marque of quality.

This has been attempted so many times in the past that many will groan, but hardship at home, the continuing growth of Eastern markets and the one third decline in the value of the pound in the past three years all combine to make this an opportune time to work together and market Scotland effectively.

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Shopping in Singapore or Hong Kong, the salmon on sale is from Norway or New Zealand, the lamb and beef from Australia and, although there is a lot of local fresh fish, high value sashimi and luxury produce is flown in from Japan and Korea. Where is the prime Scottish trout, salmon, smoked fish and shellfish from the west coast or the prime Aberdeen-Angus and Highland beef and lamb?

Whisky is, of course, one of the key Scottish brands and the taste for single malts is increasing. But so often, as a Scot, I am asked to explain blends, single malts, the different flavours, and places whiskies are from, that it is clear there is no concerted effort to develop the market. Although recently I was pleasantly surprised to be given a free copy of a whisky book entirely in Mandarin at one of the duty-free outlets in Hong Kong airport.

People in Asia are passionate about food. If there is a premium food to be had, if it is readily available and the quality is consistent, then they have the money to buy it. They are also passionate about education and, although many universities have bases or partnerships in the East, a more co-ordinated approach would have benefits.

Whilst a co-ordinated approach to quality branding and marketing will sell more, the best can still be obtained only by visiting the country. Linking a tourism initiative with this branding can encourage travel in two directions.

The new Creative Scotland has called for action to lift the nation into the top ten for brand recognition as a cultured country. This is an excellent aim that can only be achieved if all sectors of society, business, politics and education pull together for a single purpose instead of engaging in the petty rivalry and self– aggrandisement which have dogged such initiatives in the past. Cities, universities and businesses are frequently seen going it alone to the East, but their impact is minimal and short-lived. It is difficult enough to explain what Scotland is, vis vis England, Britain and the UK without Quixotic ventures confusing things further.

The existing image of Scotland's culture should be used in the delivery and in the long-term follow-up. There is no better way to create a lasting legacy. Scotland's actors make an impact on the world screens, James McAvoy, Ewan McGregor, Dougray Scott, Robert Carlyle to name but a few. The Edinburgh Festival is renowned as the world's foremost arts extravaganza; traditional music and dance are well-known ambassadors for Scotland; and Scotland's visual artists and writers operate internationally.

Bound together by its arts and culture, Scotland can draw together to market its prime produce in a unique way. A co-ordinated approach and a single brand is essential in achieving the aim of being not only in the top ten most cultured countries, but for economic survival.

• Graham Berry is former director of the Scottish Arts Council.