• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Angry response as referendum adverts come to big screens

THEY have left many movie lovers, partisan or not, wanting to throw their popcorn at the screen.

JAKI McDOUGALL: GFT chief executive reacted to complaints.
JAKI McDOUGALL: GFT chief executive reacted to complaints.

Over the last few weeks ­Scotland's cinemas have shown a series of adverts making sometimes dubious claims for one or other side of the independence referendum debate.

So divisive are some of the spots that at least one major venue, Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), has banned them.

However, after a flurry of complaints, Britain's advertising watchdog has said it can do nothing to judge the accuracy of political clips force-fed to audiences as they wait the main attraction.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said: "The best course of action for anyone with concerns about a political ad is to contact the party responsible and exercise your democratic right to tell them what you think."

The ASA said it had received six complaints about Yes Scotland, 22 about Better Together, and 13 about Vote No Borders, the self-styled "people's campaign" behind a series of cinema adverts over the last few days.

Television advertising is banned for political campaigns, so the referendum groups focus their efforts and spending on cinemas. That hasn't pleased all audiences: it is understood the GFT has had to calm down angry customers after it screened a series of controversial pro-UK ads last week.

The cinema's chief executive, Jaki ­McDougall, said: "As you'd expect, GFT is indy-neutral - all we campaign for is appropriate resources to ensure the furtherance of our work in Glasgow and beyond. We did receive complaints about the ads - but in the main these were from people who wanted to retreat from the real world when they come to GFT leaving the daily grind at the door.

"Prior to adverts showing at GFT we have no knowledge of what will be in the package - only once we have them on the screen can we check that we are happy with them.

"We're proud of our record in customer service, and as a locally run company we are able to respond quickly to feedback from our customers. We therefore requested that the adverts were removed, and they were."

Commercial cinemas continued to show the adverts across Scotland this weekend.

One, from Vote No Borders, featured a joke about "an Englishman, a Welshman and a Scotsman" who lost their passports in a Rio bar. The punchline: the Englishman and the Welshman got replacement documents; the Scot was still in Brazil.

The Herald asked the London firm behind Vote No Borders, Acanchi, whether its research had uncovered any European nation that did not have routine consular support arrangements in place for its citizens. The company did not respond.

Yes Scotland has also run into controversy, with its newspaper adverts showing the feet of a little girl in tatty shoes and socks under the strapline: "Let's become ­independent before another 100,000 more children are living in poverty".

The claim comes from research suggesting that is how many children will be in poverty by 2020 - but the number is higher than 50,000 used by the Scottish Government. Labour blogger Peter Russell said it was "an outright and foul insult to every low-income parent and child in Scotland and the UK, through its depiction of them as dirty, scruffy and negligent."

Yes Scotland said it had used the most up-to-date numbers. A spokesman added: "The debate about Scotland's future, and everything that goes with that, needs to be matched with quality, factual information."

"While it may be the case that political advertising is unregulated, it may well be possible to challenge false or offensive material through the courts.

"In 2010, two High Court judges in England ruled against former UK immigration minister Phil Woolas who they found had lied about his LibDem opponent in a bid to stir up racial tension."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

235949