IT is not Scotland’s first European charm offensive, even of the Devolution era. And it will not be the last.

But, as Brexit looms, the latest continental publicity drive for this country might be among the most significant.

That is because a £2.1 million PR campaign launched to coincide with the UK’s initial date for leaving the EU has sparked renewed interest in Scotland’s Europhilia.

Personally endorsed by Nicola Sturgeon, a series of schmaltzy videos, newspaper adverts and posters are designed to ram home the message that visitors, migrants and investors are still very much welcome north of the border.

“Europe, let’s continue our love affair,” declared a dark-haired actor on a beach in a clip that sparked heated debate on social media. “Scotland is open.”

Labour MP Paul Sweeney called it “smarmy, saccharine, bourgeois tripe”. The first minister said it sent “a strong message that Scotland continues to be a welcoming and outward looking country that will always be open for business”.


Was there a subtext too? Mr Sweeney seemed to think so. So did some continental onlookers, though they were perhaps more sympathetic than the Springburn MP.

Distinguished Spanish journalist Màrius Carol, the director of Barcelona’s La Vanguardia, explained: “The publicity campaign is an act of love for Europe but, equally, a threat for Brexiters.

“The Britons who endorsed Brexit thinking they could go back to the old imperial order and recover sovereignty ceded to the continent could end up in a dismembered state.”

Mr Carol had seen newspaper advertisements in major papers like his arch-rival El País in Madrid, Le Monde in Paris and Der Spiegel in Hamburg.

The campaign, by an alliance of public sector economic and tourism bodies under the umbrella body Scotland is Now, was largely focused on Spain, France and Germany. Its videos were subtitled in those languages.

Mr Carol, in a column in La Vanguardia, noted Ms Sturgeon’s remarks on Brexit provoking a new independence referendum.

He concluded: “It’s possible Sturgeon read her compatriot Arthur Conan Doyle when he wrote in the Hound of the Baskervilles that ‘there is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you’. The first minister senses that Brexit is a disaster but one that, in the end, could be an opportunity for Scotland.”

Spanish TV, Antena 3, viewed the PR campaign strictly politically, citing a new Survation poll suggest Brexit was playing on independence preferences.

Le Monde printed a huge advert with a view of the islands of Loch Lomond from the top of Conic Hill in Stirlingshire. But the paper has been picking up more than PR

SNP MEP Alyn Smith, a fluent French speaker, has been putting a Scottish Government case on Brexit. His calls in his last speech in Strasbourg for the EU to leave a light on for Scotland were widely reported.

Le Monde, called the politician as a “talkative and warm forty-something”, said the “guerilla warfare of Scottish independentists against Brexit” as adding to chaos at Westminster.

In Germany, commentators were quick to spot that the Scotland is Open slogan of the campaign sounded familiar. Regional paper Neue Westfälische said it was “reminiscent” of London’s appeal to Europeans.

The slick videos are also having their official desired effect, generating media and social media interest in the country. A French holiday magazine welcomed the “love affair” but added that Europeans were “increasingly aware of Scotland’s charms”. Routard added: “Scotland loves us and the feeling is mutual.”