By Jo Edwards

Did you know that Lucozade recently ran a Yes campaign?  It's true, they had bottles of the fizzy energy drink emblazoned with the word 'Yes' and promotional Yes videos on youtube.
There's also a chocolate coffee-bean type confectionary from a company called Britt, if you have a sweet tooth.

There's nothing sinister going on of course, the makers of Lucozade aren't really endorsing independence, nor is the maker of chocolate coffee beans a closet lover of all things British and an ardent supporter of the Union.

Food and drink is a subject that you'd be forgiven for believing has by-passed the constitutional debate, the debate does seems to intrude into all sorts of areas.  Can a spud persuade you to say No?  Will the sell-by date result in doubts over the viability of independence?

A stroll down the aisle of your local supermarket suggests that someone somewhere may believe so.

Britain, Great Britain, the United Kingdom.  All resonant of power, which was of course fitting at the time of the British Empire - at its height, the largest empire in history.

And the Union Flag, a symbol of that power, flew over many a colony across the globe from North America to India.

By 1922 the British Empire held sway over around 458 million people and covered almost a quarter of the Earth's total land area.  This is a far cry from its current position on the global map, but the powerful propaganda of a ‘Great’ Britain still endures.

Harmless you may argue, but it is a version of this propaganda that seems to be popping up all over our supermarkets. 'Best of British' is now a phrase coined by the big four.  And this 'Best of British' means having its own special wrapping.

As Sainsbury's puts it "labelling country of origin is a requirement we have to adhere to.  However where a product is British made or grown we use the Union flag".  When asked the reasons for this, they said it was to reach "a target to double our sales of British food by 2020 as part of our 20x20 Sustainability Plan".

They chose not to answer my question as to whether there was a concerted effort between all the large supermarket chains to visibly adorn 'British' food with the Union flag.

Because it isn't just Sainsbury's who have decided to 'Britify' their aisles.  Marks and Spencer have a 'Make it British' clothes campaign, the Co-op recently ran an in-store campaign of Union flag branded British produce.  Tesco have a British meat campaign, and Asda are apparently leading the way in sourcing food from British producers.

None of them got back to me, but after reading their respective websites, the justification for this widespread break out of 'Brand Britain' would appear to be a show of support for farmers.

Farmers are certainly in need of support.  Over 40% of UK dairy farmers have been put out business as of 2012.  One of the reasons is the hoarding of profits by the big supermarkets and the ridiculously poor returns for farmers.

And worse still, Farmers for Action (FFA) fear competitive discounting and the way supermarkets trade with food producers will eventually put British agriculture out of business completely. 

Local food labelling such as 'Lochmuir Salmon' has been found to be erroneous – with no Lochmuir farm even in existence, the fish instead comes from all across the country.  And according to a BBC Panorama programme in 2010, 'made in Britain' doesn't always mean what it says.

There's no doubt supermarkets are bombarding our visual space with the reminder of a 'Great' Britain.  Tesco adorns Ayrshire Ham and Aberdeen Angus steak with the Union flag and the word 'British' instead of the well renowned stamp of quality 'Scottish'.

I confess I haven't seen many Saltires on food grown or produced in Scotland but then I've probably had my fill of propaganda after picking up the red white and blue emblazoned carrots, spuds, apples and pretty much every other vegetable.

Is this a concerted effort by some of the biggest businesses in the country to remind us of how great Britain is and how weak we would be as an independent nation, with no saltire dressed greens to shake a salad at. 

If it is indeed an attempt at using what was thought to be a positive brand image in order to re-enforce a 'strong' Britain versus a 'weak' Scotland theme, then it's fraught with dangers.

Historically, the Union flag can be double edged sword.  The recent London Olympic Games presented the positive aspects of Britishness and it wasn't so long ago that Brit-Pop rode the crest of the iconic Union Flag wave, reminiscent of the nostalgic days of the swinging sixties.

However the history of the Union flag isn't just Carnaby Street, the Beatles and the London Olympics - which all serve to evoke a sense of pride, reminiscence and loyalty as we peruse the food shelves.  There's a less romantic and darker side to this red, white and blue emblem.

The atrocities committed by the British Empire have been meticulously documented by historians – and it certainly goes far from evoking a sense of pride.  Britain's occupation of Kenya presented that nation's citizens, not with Union flag branded vegetables, meat and bread, but instead a less appetising list that included rape, torture and mass murder.

But as journalist George Monbiot comments, the myths of this civilising 'British' crusade go largely unquestioned.

The Union Flag, merging Scotland's Saltire and England's St George's Cross, once swept like a tide across most of the world.  That tide has slowly receded as, one by one, overseas nations declared themselves independent of the stronghold of colonial rule.

Which image of 'Great' Britain will be conjured up when next you visit your local supermarket?  The powerful, influential global player or the insecure former colonial bully whose last remnant of empire in the shape of its partner, Scotland, may end the union - leaving England alone to reminisce of days gone by.

Maybe none of the two, maybe your only thought is to buy carrots … British or otherwise.

[Newsnet comment - As is the case with the overwhelming contributions to Newsnet Scotland, this author took no payment.  However this is not always the case and we now regularly pay professional writers and contributors for news articles and commissioned pieces - one such piece on Scottish shipbuilding, written by a former Army officer, will appear tomorrow.

Our last appeal, for an editor, raised £12,000 within two weeks.  Unfortunately our editor was unable to continue in the role which included writing articles and we recruited two freelance writers.  Angela Haggerty and Lynn Malone have proven to be exceptionally talented and a valuable addition to the team.

Our Duggy Dug project continues and the second animation has just been released - the first 'Scotland's Oil' has been viewed by over 12,000 people on Youtube and a further 8000 on this and the website.  The third animation is currently in production.

In September we achieved a record 120,000 unique visitors.  This week we broke the record for daily readers, coming up just short of 20,000.

In order to maintain what we believe is a very high quality output into 2014 and increase our penetration into the wider electorate, we need to raise more funds.  This is the key period of the campaign and we expect interest in the referendum to slowly pick up.

There are other sites of course and other appeals, all making a plea for a finite resource, and we are no different.  The decision readers must make is who is now best placed to move into another gear and impact directly on this referendum by gaining not just the attention of the undecided voter ... but their trust.]


# bringiton 2013-11-09 17:04
Try lidl...lots of Saltires on display.
But of course it is a German supermarket and not British.
# art1001 2013-11-09 19:45
Agreed ALDI too. I get 90-95% of my shopping there. Only the odd item requires me to visit an English supermarket. No compromise on quality, lots of local Scottish produce and of course much better value. Presumably because they are German and not part of any price cartel.

I noticed over the years how they are just getting busier and busier. So clearly word is getting around. Sensible Scots vote YES and shop at ALDI and LIDL.
# JimPicti 2013-11-10 01:22
Good to see i'm not alone on this one, my chinese stepson thinks i'm mad but I also trawl the supermarkets looking for, apron free food.

I simply wont buy anything with a union flag on it!

Lidil & aldi are indeed both a good source for non brit infested food. :)
# Talorgan 2013-11-16 21:55
Quoting JimPicti:
Good to see i'm not alone on this one, my chinese stepson thinks i'm mad but I also trawl the supermarkets looking for, apron free food.

I simply wont buy anything with a union flag on it!

Lidil & aldi are indeed both a good source for non brit infested food. :)

So I'm not alone! Thank the Lord.

... and like everyone else here I have had to radically realign my shopping in favour of Lidls, Aldi and Asda.

The most difficult apron-free item to obtain is milk but Aldi imports Irish milk. It is very silly that I have to buy it, living in an area of dairy farms but I think we have to be uncompromising. The local farmers are stupid to allow their product to be rendered unsellable through its labelling.
# gerrydotp 2013-11-09 18:23
Funnily enough I saw German biscuits in Asda a couple of weeks ago, complete with saltire and labelled "Scottish Empire Biscuits"
# theycantbeserious 2013-11-09 18:26
I spend a lot of time driving throughout Scotland, and because of my dislike for the union flag, I'm very aware of them when driving past settlements. I have noticed fewer and fewer each time I travel.

For example The Bridge of Orchy Hotel was flying the Saltire, EU and the Union flags probably up until the year mark to the referendum. Now it is only flying the Saltire and EU flags. Maybe a coincidence or maybe a statement. I would hope it's the latter.
# gayle 2013-11-09 18:30
I seldom ever use the supermarkets any more because of the amount of "British" produce and lack of Scottish. I buy from my local wee shop and only buy foods that don't have "British" scrawled across it.
# call me dave 2013-11-09 18:35
I am very careful to avoid any food product with the union jack logo.
Luckily ASDA have saltires on certain cuts of meat two of which are in the fridge ready for Sunday lunch.
Locally produced potato; carrot; mushrooms ;lettuce / caulies cabbage ( rasps/ strawbs) no problem. Oh and fish too.

If we all did it they would get the message.
PS: That's why I do the shopping & cooking. Fife.

PPS: Very sad news, regardless of politics, regarding the death of Helen Eadie. I'm sure nobody will object to this acknowledgement here.
# Corm 2013-11-09 18:39
It's the Royal Banks RBYES that really tickles me.
# xyz 2013-11-09 19:44
It's not just the supermarkets. The TV is also full of British this, great British that. Oh, and here - look at this symbol of British imperial exploitation. Yes the flag.

There was an article on BBC news 24 the other day about "when should the flag be called the Union jack as opposed to the Union Flag". There was five minutes of flag trivia from Professor 'has looked into the issue' and the article was completed by cheery chappie newsreader saying something like: "Well there you go, it doesn't matter what you call it. Whatever you like" (just so long as you like it you daft shits) A Puff-piece so that the gullible might love the flag and of course Westminster hegemony, otherwise known as yUK.

There was another BBC news article on the flag a few weeks ago telling us the Union Jack has been taken up as a fashion item in Cuba of all places. Isn't that cute :-\
# Roll_On_2011 2013-11-09 20:09
OT - Breaking News

It has just been announced that, sadly, Helen Eadie Labour MSP has just passed away.
# Breeks 2013-11-09 20:10
It's funny, but in the advert, I find 'Butcher's Choice' as inappropriate as any flag. Supermarkets have devastated all manner of traditional trades: butchers, green grocers, fish mongers etc. I rather suspect the 'Butcher's Choice' would be to exit the supermarket at his first opportunity.
I would also recommend you explore other sources. I am lucky that I have a source of lamb straight from a farm. I don't know what the Supermarkets do to our food, but the taste is all but absent.
# Soloman 2013-11-09 20:30
Have been wondering for ages, is the Westminster Government giving tax breaks or other business incentives for producing The Union Jack on their products.....
# red kite 2013-11-09 20:49
On that topic, I noticed earlier this year that very many Union flags around greater Glasgow seemed to be brand new, and I wondered as above, whether someone somewhere was giving out subsidies for these.
And, as above, last Saturday I went into the Aldi in Rutherglen which was bursting at the seams, no parking spaces. In comparison the Scotmid in Viewpark was almost empty - much bigger store, but only one person on the tills.
Presumably that's nothing to do with the Saltires in Aldi, and the Union Jacks in Scotmid, but maybe ...
# cuckooshoe 2013-11-09 21:35
Don't forget the RBS ad for mortgages, With its subliminal YES graphic at the end.. RBYES.

The obvious culprit is the BBC, and now ITV it seems, with several programs containing British or Britain in the title -

Reel History of Britain,
The Great British Bake Off,
The Great Antique Maps of Britain,
Rip Off Britain,
Fake Britain,
Fightback Britain,
A Picture of Britain,
Paul O'Grady's Working Britain,
Britain's Great Wildlife Revival,
Great British Menu,
Goodnight Britain,
How We Built Britain,
Britain's Biggest Hoarders
I Love my Country (same thing)
# gus1940 2013-11-17 08:54
And another series to add to the list -starting tonight 'Britain And The Sea' presented by our favourite 'neutral' QT Chairman Dvid Dimbleby.
# Leswil 2013-11-09 21:36
I am now a widower and have to go get my own messages in. When doing so I scour the shelves for Scottish produce, unfortunately the amount of food that comes from Scotland on the shelves of the BIG supermarket chains is a tiny percentage.
Almost everything is transported here from down south.
It makes a mockery of any suggestion of borders as it would undoubtedly harm these supermarket, and in a big way, such is their business here. Remember also all their taxes ect go straight to Westminster coffers.
# Pictavia 2013-11-09 21:39
Asda of the major supermarkets are the least enthusiastic on unionist branding. They previously incurred the wrath of the Daily Mail
# From The Suburbs 2013-11-09 22:15
Apart from fact that ASDA s fairly supportive of SNP conferences they have far less Brit packaging than Tesco for example.

Is it not time that YES supporters voted with their feet and boycotted those supermarkets with excessive Union Jack packaging and write / email the CEOs to tell them so.

Do it now that they might change their tune long before the referendum.
# agrippinilla 2013-11-09 22:23
Actually, I've found the opposite in my local Tesco, and I've been waiting for an article like this to comment about it.

Our branch has the saltire image on the outside, proclaiming its support for local produce, and they have little Saltires along the shelves to highlight where they are. They even have half an aisle dedicated to Scottish favourites, and I never have any problem finding Scottish produce there. The choice has actually increased to the extent that I have to alternate between brands to ensure thay all get my custom.

Even the butcher's choice range has sausages either with British Pork (unions jacks)or Scottsh Pork (saltires).

Once, they even had the spring onions labelled as "syboes", although it's never happened again. I just assumed Tesco as a whole were gearing up for Independence, but from other comments here, it would appear my branch is in the minority. Pity...
# Angusman 2013-11-09 23:37
The small Tesco branch I shop at in Dundee also have saltiires on the main window and along the aisles. The veg in particular is a big culprit for Union Jacks and I need to search carefully for Scottish saltires on packaging, so a mixed picture. The robust carrier bags also have saltires.
# Breeks 2013-11-10 03:14
The other thing about supermarkets is that the presence of saltires and union jacks has nothing to do with patriotism, but has everything to do with selling more produce. You are meant to feel good 'doing your bit' to support local produce; that is precisely what the supermarket wants you to think.
# gus1940 2013-11-10 08:00
I discovered Aldi & Lidl about 10 years ago.

Initially I only bought a few items but over the years have bought more and more until now they are the main source of my shopping with the big 4 supermarkets just used for to-ups or items not sold by Aldi & Lidl.

One of the big attractions of the 2 is the weekly special offers which give even more value for money compared with the big 4.

As stated above they sell plenty of Scottish produce.

There used to be a snobbish attitude towards them but it is obvious by the type of cars in the car park that is no longer the case.

Anybody who doesn't try them is in my mind a total mug.

I have no connection with either Aldi or Lidl other than being a satisfied customer who wonders how the Big 4 can justify the prices they charge.
# mealer 2013-11-10 08:38
I always make a point of telling the girl on the checkout how disappointed I am that the store doesn't sell more Scottish local produce and then point to the British flags.Every little helps!
# troutbag 2013-11-10 09:38
The comment from cuckooshoe about programming I noticed this a number of years ago and it has got worse. I have also noticed "Union Flag" branded items in home make over programs and in adverts generally - Am I being Paranoid? I agreed also with gus1940 about 80% of my shopping is now via Lidl again for the reasons stated - We have 3 community markets which are held monthly and I get most veg stuff from them. More people I speak to are using LIdl and Aldi pound for pound they are a better buy especially with money going less far each week.
# Diabloandco 2013-11-10 09:47
Even the Hairy Bikers couldn't open their considerable gubs without saying " British"

Personally I have a soft spot for Morrisons - they do have Scottish veggies and an in house butcher.
Although I recently sent them a letter of complaint for labelling morning rolls as " Scotch" .I said I did not mind Scotch beef , Scotch whisky or Scotch eggs but somehow "Scotch morning rolls " offended!
# Clydebuilt 2013-11-10 11:45
Morrisons: noticed that Tunocks products are on bottom shelf. Asked the shelf staker, he told me that they are given instructions where to place items!
# DoricBob 2013-11-10 12:19
If you want an example of an atrocity under the union flag, think of the Boer war. 28,000 Boers died in the concentration camps, 25,000 of them children - so much for the glory of Empire.

I have been aware of an awful lot of TV programmes in the last few months with the British label attached.
# NkosiEcosse 2013-11-10 21:15
Quoting DoricBob:
If you want an example of an atrocity under the union flag, think of the Boer war. 28,000 Boers died in the concentration camps, 25,000 of them children - so much for the glory of Empire.

I have been aware of an awful lot of TV programmes in the last few months with the British label attached.

I have been posting the self same for a couple of years now. The "empires" sojourn through Southern Africa is littered with promises which were lies.
# Abulhaq 2013-11-10 15:02
Does British mean English or the supra-nationality ie English, Scottish, Welsh. The references are usually London themes, mother of parliaments, monarchy, cricket, rose covered cottages, red buses etc Scots, if allowed a look-in, get stereotyped as kilt-wearing, bag-pipe blowing Bravehearty types. The Welsh? the who? All is retro nothing modern. The rehabilitation of the Raj, gave the subcontinent railways, law and order etc is a nice piece of history with a rosy tint.
# gopher3 2013-11-11 15:49
I think they're trying to imply that British means English, and the rest of the world believes it. It seems to me that if someone abroad talks about Britain they're meaning England. Thing is the rest of the world think the Union Flag is the flag of England.
# Dunnichen685 2013-11-11 18:24
I was watching the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on the tv and the commentator described the grid row of Paul di Resta and Jensen Button as an "all English row". A few moments later he realised his mistake pointing out that di Resta is a proud Scot. He then stated the reason for his error, he got carried away when he saw the two UNION FLAGS next to both drivers.
In other words union flag = England (not Britain)
# Blanco 2013-11-12 09:54
Of course Britain = England. If you put croutons in onion soup, it's still onion soup.

As for the Bridge of Orchy hotel. A barman at the Kingshouse over a decade ago told me that the B of O stopped selling Irn Bru in a bid to rid themselves of rowdy Glasweigans. A year or so later I was in the B of O and asked for an Irn Bru - the barman looked at me askance as I burst out laughing when he said no.

Now if they'd really wanted to rid themselves of rowdy weegies they'd have stopped selling beer...
# xyz 2013-11-17 09:28
Anyone seen the Lego advert?

In it, a young child speaks the very surprising words: 'Pooling and sharing our resources' or something very similar. Yeech!

There's also a 'great' new game being advertised now - 'Best of British' The box is naturally a festival of Union Jackery. Double Yeech!

I'd love to be able to find out who are the people responsible for such insidious propaganda in support of empire and London Hegemony.
# KOF 2013-11-17 11:07
The 'Best of British' game has been available since 2010. It is certainly not a "new" thing and certainly nothing to do with the referendum next year.
# xyz 2013-11-18 09:04
It's easy to doubt my observations as those of someone seeing the machinations of Perfidious Westminster in every facet of the UK, but you know, the second world war is not a new thing either and yet, check the TV schedules: Never in the field of television has there ever been such a blitzkrieg of repeated programming devoted to Britain's finest hours. That one time in history when it seems beyond doubt we fought a greater evil.

I think the moment in 2007 when independent minded Scots came to power at Holyrood the corpse of the British empire reawakened to defend the centre of power, wealth, privilege and patronage that is Westminster. Oh no .. It's alive! :)

It's never been easier for those in control of broadcasting to bombard the population with propaganda.

The other day this drifted past on Twitter:
# KOF 2013-11-18 11:43
I don't doubt your observations at all. In fact looking at the tv schedules, etc, I'd agree that something is definitely going on and is indeed perfidious.

However, I've in the past done work for the company that produces the 'Best of British' game and do not feel that it has anything to do with the referendum. 'British' is a brand, like 'Bratz' or 'Dragonball Z'. It's merely taking commercial advantage of a brand. (Jubalympics, etc) I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a 'Best of Scottish' game at some point after independence. Scotland gaining it's independence will be global news after all. It'd be a good commercial decision to do a game to capitalise on that global interest. Also, it'd be good for OUR economy and exports , as it is a Scottish company that produces 'Best of British'.

I do not in any way speak for this company, nor know their political affiliations, nor their thoughts on the referendum, but I do know they are good and decent people.

You must be logged-in in order to post a comment.


Donate to Newsnet Scotland


Latest Comments