Scotland’s brand image ‘damaged’

Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh Castle.
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SCOTLAND’S reputation in the US has suffered a “significant deterioration” in recent years, prompting concerns the release of the Lockerbie bomber is continuing to damage the country’s reputation across the Atlantic.

First Minister Alex Salmond is keen to court the US and recently took a £500,000 trip to attend the Ryder Cup in Chicago with an entourage of more than 30 officials to sell Scotland.

Opposition leaders now fear that a “collapse in confidence” in the crucial US market could damage Scotland’s economic recovery as its reputation for innovation, science and creativity struggles to make an impact internationally, according to a keynote report on nation “brands” published yesterday.

But the uncertainty over independence has not undermined the image of Scotland, which continues to have a “strong image” abroad generally and ranks 15th among 50 other leading nations that were examined as part of the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation brands index.

The report examines six key measures of reputation, comprising exports, governance, culture, people and tourism as well as immigration and investment. Scotland’s economic strength consistently ranked outside the top 20, particularly in science and technology and creativity.

Americans’ view of foreign countries has dipped generally and could be linked to a “hunkering down” in the US as it focuses on domestic concerns during the economic downturn. But compared with other nations, Scotland has fallen from eighth to 13th in the eyes of Americans.

Labour finance spokesman Ken Macintosh said: “It’s disappointing that Scotland is losing ground in the US market and we need to understand why this has happened at a time when we need to boost exports, investment and tourism to help our economy.

“Given exports are supposed to be central to John Swinney’s plans for economic growth, this collapse in confidence is very worrying.”

The value of Scottish exports to the US was £3.5 billion in 2010, about 16 per cent of total Scottish global exports, but US perceptions of Scottish exports “weakened significantly” in 2012.

CBI Scotland assistant director David Lonsdale said the unflattering science and technology findings were a surprise.

“Innovation, science and the creative industries will be crucial to Scotland’s economic future, and more can and ought to be done to spur success.” .

Professor Murray Pittock, head of Glasgow University’s College of Arts, said: “I would tend to see this positively and also see positively the fact that Scotland is recognised as a national brand worldwide, whereas other places which see themselves as having constitutional issues like Catalonia and Quebec probably aren’t.”