Ad regulation should not concern Scottish brands

Scottish brands have many things to consider when weighing up the merits of Scottish independence. The economic prospects of their consumers as well as their own tax and legal affairs to name just a few things likely to be occupying their time and minds. 

Russell Parsons

Recent polls that show either a severe cut to the lead of the unionists or a lead for the Yes to independence campaign will have focussed their mind on the possibility that Scotland is to become an independent nation.

Even for the most vehement of Yes campaigners in the marketing world there is likely to be some fear of the unknown. Fear of what might happen in terms of advertising regulation should not add to the weight of their concern, however.

The most likely scenario is that very little will change. As detailed here, it seems likely the Advertising Standards Authority will perform the same function in Scotland post independence as it does currently for Scottish consumers within the UK.

Where it does get a little more troubling, potentially, are sector specific positions, particularly when it comes to hot button topics such as food and drink advertising.

An independent Scotland is likely to form a left-leaning and possibly more interventionist Government with the Scottish National Party having a big say.

In its 2013 document laying out its vision for an independent Scotland, the SNP said its approach to food standards will be linked with tax policy and advertising regulation – “allowing a coherent and concerted approach to issues of obesity and poor diet, which disproportionately affect poorer communities.”

A declaration that could be interpreted as opening up the possibility of further restrictions on the content and scheduling of advertising as well as the chance of higher tax on foods classed as high in sugar, salt and fat.

As much as stricter rules are a threat, they will be far from a priority in the years following independence. The economy, health service and defence to name but three will dominate over such matters.

The ad industry should welcome the chance to take its message to Holyrood and embrace the chance to work with a newly emboldened, independent Scotland if that should prove to be the case. 

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