Consuming Identity: the Case of Scotland

ABSTRACT - The paper examines national identity in Scotland. The research explores how consumers perceive the symbols used to represent Scotland, how these symbols relate to their perceptions of contemporary Scottish identity and their responses to the use of these symbols to promote Scotland and Scottishness. A series of in-depth interviews revealed that national identity in Scotland was seen to be multidimensional. Activities associated with art and culture, as opposed to business and industry, were identified as primary characteristics of contemporary Scotland. The traditional symbols of Scottish identity (e.g. tartan and whiskey) remain dominant signifiers, however, and the problems of this are discussed.


Emma Combes, Sally Hibbert, Gillian Hogg, and Richard Varey (2001) ,"Consuming Identity: the Case of Scotland", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 328-333.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Pages 328-333


Emma Combes, University of Strathclyde

Sally Hibbert, University of Strathclyde

Gillian Hogg, Glasgow Caledonian University

Richard Varey, University of Salford


The paper examines national identity in Scotland. The research explores how consumers perceive the symbols used to represent Scotland, how these symbols relate to their perceptions of contemporary Scottish identity and their responses to the use of these symbols to promote Scotland and Scottishness. A series of in-depth interviews revealed that national identity in Scotland was seen to be multidimensional. Activities associated with art and culture, as opposed to business and industry, were identified as primary characteristics of contemporary Scotland. The traditional symbols of Scottish identity (e.g. tartan and whiskey) remain dominant signifiers, however, and the problems of this are discussed.


Recent research in consumer behaviour has demonstrated that individuals create, transform and maintain self-identity through the consumption of goods and services (see for example, Belk 1989; Schouten and Alexander 1995; Celsi et al 1993; Hill and Stamey 1990; Hogg and Michell 1996). Goods and services are recognised to embody signs and symbols that communicate meaning to other individuals and groups. It is emphasised in the literature that in defining identity there is interdependence between the individual and society (McCracken 1986, 1990). This interdependence of self and society is summed up by Berger (1966 p109): "one identifies oneslf, as one is identified by others, by being located in a common world".

Our location within a common world relates to the notion that we live in communities. Community, as a number of authors point out, as been largely over looked in studies of consumption behaviour (see Muinz and O’ Guinn 1999; Cova 1997; Mc Grath Sherry and Heisley 1993). The idea of communal consumption, however, is not new. Within specific communities or cultures, certain products or brands become ideologies of consumption (Hebidge 1979, Schouten and Alexander 1995). Unifying these activities is a set of common values that determine consumption patterns and are a direct reflection of the commitment of individuals to the ethos.

In this paper we are concerned with consumption and symbolism of national identity, focusing on the case of Scotland. Political Devolution in the UK in 1999, establishment of the Scottish Parliament and, particularly, the call for total political independence from the Scottish National Party has drawn attention to the importance of national identity within Scotland. The purpose of this research is to examine how individuals in Scotland perceive the symbols used to represent Scotland, how these symbols relate to their perception of contemporary Scottish identity and their response to the use of these symbols.


National identity is the manifestation of the cultural tradition within which we are social actors comprising unity, position, reputation, stimulated and inhibited behaviour. In developing and maintaining a favourable self-defining social relationship (often subtle and unrecognised) with a controlling agent, we are able to construct a favourable self-image. This type of conformity facilitates the adoption of collective norms and values; identity provides the means by which individuals create and survive social change (McCracken 1990, Hogg and Michell 1996, Berger 1996).

The construct of a national identity is founded on the idea that the components that characterise a nation tie sub-cultures together within a national boundary. Keillor and Hult (1999) suggest that national identity has four components: cultural identity or a set of meanings that set it apart from other cultures; a belief structure facilitating cultural participation and solidarity; national heritage defined as a sense of the culture’s unique history; and ethnocentrism, the way in which individuals or societies make judgements and attributions using their own cultural perspectives as baseline criteria. However, as Cooke and MacLean (1999) point out, in a post- modern society where social structures are rapidly changing, the politics of consumption are inextricably linked to expressions of identity. National identity is therefore an abstraction, an imagined communion (Anderson 1983) whereby individuals are united not by a geographical space but by a collective identity (Schlesinger 1991). Indeed, Bouchet (1995), following Despres (1975) argues that this identity can be self-ascribed and need not correspond to identities that others impose, with the most important criterion being that individuals want to belong to a group. National culture, or the signs and symbols of such identity are a way of constructing meanings that influence people’s actions and conceptions of self (Hall 1992). Thus, social and cultural differences seem less significant than what is shared.


The self is composed of multiple identities with associated loyalty to relationships of ethnic community, religion, locality, and nation or supra-nation (Smith, 1991). With some products, we develop a relationship such that they come to be important parts of our identity. Others cannot be so readily accommodated. These, if they are to be absorbed, require an exploration of identity B "the quest for outer difference becomes a quest for inner meaning" (Gabriel & Lang, 1995, p. 78). Consumption has become an opportunity to display one’s identity B but is this creative opportunity or cultural determinism? For Belk (1988), certain objects are vital elements of our identity as if physical extensions of our bodies. These also act as filters to organise and interpret our social existence B each affects the whole psychic and social complex. As communicator, the consumer uses products as bridges to relate to other people. As identity-seeker, the consumer searches for a real self in consumed objects (see Gabriel & Lang, 1995).

Burke (1950) proposed three sources of identification. Material identification results from goods, possessions, things - I am like you because we own the same model of car or have the same taste in clothes, music, books, etc. Idealistic identification is based on shared ideas, attitudes, feelings, and values. We attend the same church or are members of the same political party, etc. Formal identification results from arrangement, form, or organisation of an event in which both participate.

Identification is the opposite of division. Tomlinson (1994) sees debate on consumerism as essentially about stages of cultural transformation B fundamental shifts in values B about confusions over class, regional, generational, and gender identities. Style, for example, is a visible manifestation of power relations, and a process of creating commodity images (c.f. 'imagination’) for people to emulate and believe in. Identity is a 'symbol sphere’ (Gerth and Mills, 1967) or zone of meaning (Heath, 1994) within the universe of discourse (of vocabularies, pronunciations, emblems, formulas, types of conversation). Langer (1967) has pointed out that a word, sound, mark, object, or event can be a symbol to a person, without that person’s thinking consciously going from it to a meaning. Participation in constructing identity, knowledge, and meaning should be a matter of ensuring the survival of the communicating community (Deetz, 1992). Identity, as a sense of self, requires a sense of other ("other than me"). This in-out distinction (inclusive-exclusive) is inherently divisive (see Cohen 1994 for a full discussion of these issues).

Rapport, on the other hand, comes from a sense of shared social identities, which may be chosen or ascribed. Identification arises in an adopted social (relational) identity through association - how we are placed in relation to those around us. Cultural identity is a social construction that is 'given’ to us. People’s orientations to their institutional identities (employee, customer, consumer, supplier, etc.) are not exogenous and determining variables, but rather are accomplished in interaction (van Dijk, 1997). From this we conclude that identity is a cultural performance B identity is expressed through and within culture, by means of consumption. This performance, or discourse, is expressed through constructed meanings, evoking emotional responses from the community (Smith 1991). These are not, however, shared symbols that the entire population stands in identical relations, instead there is a need to articulate and define such symbols.

Natinal identity is expressed through the institutions, both public and private associated with the country, events, symbols and ceremonies (Richards 1997) or, as Daniels (1993) suggests, 'legends and landscapes’. Smith (1991) details the promotion of national identity through flags, anthems, parades, coinage, war memorials, folklore, museums, popular heroes/heroines, national recreations, legal and educational procedures all of which can be translated into consumption activities to create a collective sense of belonging or purpose. These become the symbols of a national identity and the representation of the nation state in emotional form (Joy et al 1995).


One of the institutional uses of symbols to represent a nation is evident when organisations attempt to identify goods and services with their country of origin (COO). COO has been widely studied as an influence on consumer behaviour, indeed Tan and Farley (1987) conclude that is it the "most researched international aspect of consumer behaviour" (p. 540). COO effects have been broadly described as "any influence, positive or negative, that the country of manufacture might have in consumer’s choice processes or subsequent behaviour (Samiee 1987). According to Hong and Wyer (1989, 1990) consumers have well developed, frequently stereotypical, beliefs about countries and the types of products emanating from these countries which are used as cues to provide simplicity, coherence and predictability in complex decision settings (Taylor 1981). These cues are be used by consumers to imply quality, although research is inconsistent on the use of these cues by particular consumer groups. Within these studies the nationality of the consumer has been shown to affect the COO images of products both with regard to foreign products and 'home’ products, although again these studies are inconsistent (see for example Reirson 1966a; Narayana 1981; Johansson et al 1985; Bruning 1997). Papadopoulos and Heslop (1993) suggest that the whole notion of 'country of origin’ is misleading and too narrow since it assumes a single place of origin for a product. He suggests a broader notion of product-country image to account for the fact it is the image of the country associated with the product that is relevant. As Han (1989) points out, the general image of a country is transferred to either a country’s products or specific product categories B hence Japanese electronics were until recently associated with the efficiency of the Japanese economy.

If we consider the views of the inhabitants of a country, Bruning et al. (1991) and Bruning (1997) suggest that there is a 'national loyalty’ effect, based on a fundamental predisposition of consumers towards ethnocentric attitudes. These are separate from stereotyping processes in that the values ascribed to the COO cue are based on an individual’s group identity. Thus national loyalty in purchasing can be seen to be a development of Shimp and Sharma’s 'consumer ethnocentrism’ scale (CETSCALE) (Shimp and Sharma 1987). Bruning (1997) suggests that this national loyalty concept can be used to distinguish between consumers’ response to promotional messages; individuals with a strong sense of national loyalty are likely to respond to "patriotic’ messages or to exhibit more 'home country’ bias because of the way that 'nation’ fits with their sense of self B identity. What is not clear from these studies, however, is how consumers achieve this 'fit’ and how consumers interpret the symbols of nation within their own identit. However, as Askegaard and Ger (1998) assert, product country images can not be taken at face value, but are inseparable from the myths they are inscribed in.


In order to explore the issues of national identity in more depth we turn to the case of Scotland. Scotland is a part of the UK that has always promoted its separate identity and where the idea of a nation with its own cultural identity, belief structure, heritage and ethnocentrism has been strengthened by political Devolution. The meeting of Scotland’s first parliament for 300 years in 1999 has led to resurgence in national identity. The historical background to the cultural ethnocentrism and belief structure within Scotland is complex and beyond the scope of this paper. Put simply, after the Treaty of Union in 1707 Scotland retained its own legal, educational, civil and health service systems that have served to reiterate its identity over the last three centuries. However, whilst Scotland and Scottishness has retained an image separate from Britain, there had been an increasing trend during the 1970’s and 1980’s towards downplaying the need for a separate Scottish identity. Scotland was increasingly viewed as a quaint, if wet, country characterised by thrift, tartan and dourness. In response to this image Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Office set up a quango in 1994 to promote trade, tourism and culture within and out-with Scotland under the title 'Scotland the Brand’.

The aim of 'Scotland the Brand’ is to promote an image of Scotland that Scots can identify with and to promote Scottish identity to the rest of the world. The success of this initiative is difficult to evaluate as it is inseparable from the political and social change that has led to devolved government. One indicator that can be used to estimate the success of this initiative is the value that corporations within Scotland place on a Scottish identity. A number of high profile organisations have chosen to retain the 'Scottish’ aspect of their identities, the sense of 'belonging’ and homogeneity of a nation is therefore reinforced through its corporations. From a consumer perspective however, very little research considers how Scottish identity is viewed by consumers. The objectives of this research were to explore how individuals in Scotland perceive the symbols used to represent Scotland, how these symbols relate to their perception of contemporary Scottish identity and their response to the use of these symbols by institutions in Scotland.


The research involved a series of depth interviews conducted with consumers visiting the McLellan Galleries Architecture of Democracy exhibition in Glasgow. Within this exhibition was a model of the new Scottish Parliament building, which provided the catalyst for discussing Scottish identity.

The sample of respondents were collected at the gallery was a convenience sampledue to the nature of the data collection method of intercepting respondents within the public gallery environment, thus the interviews were relatively short, around 15 to 20 minutes. A total of 30 respondents were interviewed including 10 who described themselves as Scottish, 6 said there were English and 6 described themselves as British. The remaining 8 interviewees were from outside the UK. The labels that individuals chose for themselves are themselves interesting when discussing national identity given the "fuzziness" and ambiguity that characterises "Britishness" and its distinction from the English, Scottish and Welsh nations that it comprises (see Cohen, 1994). This range of respondents provided both internal and external perspectives on Scottish national identity. The interviews were taped and later transcribed.


In order to discuss the results of these interviews the following section is divided into three sections: firstly we consider respondents overall view of the current Scottish identity and the degree of inclusion/exclusion generated by this identity, secondly we consider the stereotypical images of Scotland and whether these reflect respondents views of Scotland, finally we examine contemporary Scotland the relationship between the images of Scotland and consumption of those images.

Scottish Identity

Overall, most respondents were positive about Scotland and Scottish identity. However, most views were hazy, referring to a general feel or atmosphere. One Canadian respondent made such a vague reference to this issue:

Yes - every time I’m over it looks like it’s [Scotland] making steps forward.

However, some provided more specific views relating to this progress within contemporary Scottish identity. An English respondent stated:

I think Scottish identity is becoming better, in the same way as what’s happening with Wales - this new cool identity about anywhere that’s not England but in the UK. Young people seem to be moving out and going to Edinburgh University, Cardiff University, Glasgow University, Belfast University. They’re all becoming very cool and popular. I think the film industry and all that seem to be doing a lot in that respect too.

Such a view seemed to highlight that the nature of any Scottish identity progression was based in the creative industries, Arts and culture, and that this theme was particularly related to issues concerning younger generations. Another (Scots) view highlighted this point by stating:

People talk about, um, all things like the fashion industry and the club industry and stuff is very big here [Glasgow] and art. I mean everyone I know from London have always wanted to come up here because of the whole art scene in Glasgow.

However, overall there was little mention of the modern telecommunications, electronics and general business sectors that 'Scotland the Brand’ see as vibrant (but largely unrecognised) factors within the nation’s contemporary identity although one British respondent stated:

I think Scotland is known for business and technology industry developments that it did not have, say, 20 years ago.

Overall these research results present a worrying picture for 'Scotland the Brand’. The organisation stresses the many revolutions taking place across varied political, culture, leisure and industry sectors within Scottish nationhood. Their research was particularly concerned with a contemporary Scottish business and industry identity that is not being communicated within a global context. It would be necessary for such a business identity to be clearly recognised and related to by a nation’s consumers if it were to form a valid symbolic contribution to the overall national identity. If a nation’s consumers do not interact with such identity aspects then they can not perform an effective symbolic function, and dscordance could be experienced between the communicated symbolic identity and perception.

Stereotypical Scotland

The literature identified the Scottish media and film industries as generally upholding the stereotypical images and characteristics that research identified as damaging to contemporary Scotland. Such aspects as the Scottish music and club scene were identified by Bickett (1999) as upholding many regressive Scottish identity characteristics, particularly in such recent films as Trainspotting (1996). Of course, the recognition overall of a healthy and vibrant cultural scene cannot be condemned.

The suggestion of a prominent creative drive within current Scottish identity can obviously not overall be viewed as a negative factor. Indeed, a strong relationship can be uncovered between this theme and respondent views concerning Scotland’s new political context. One of the most positive aspects to be related to the devolution of government was the idea that Scotland would now become accountable for its actions. Such factors of accountability it was suggested would contribute to a more positive and creative method of governing within Scotland. A Scottish respondent stated:

I think it will be a bit more creative now we’re 'doing it ourselves’

Clearly there is a tendency to associate Scotland and Scottishness with stereotypical images. Asked to comment on the symbols associated with Scottish identity kilts and tartan were repeatedly mentioned by Scots,

Edinburgh is most guilty in putting forward that image of just tartan and Edinburgh rock. There’s an awful lot more layers to Scotland and hundreds more cities that have got different and expressive things.

The overall impression gained from respondent views concerning Scottish identity within the contemporary context seemed to stress issues concerning ceativity, multiple identities and a generally positive atmosphere surrounding current developments within the nation. In essence, Scotland is viewed to be a nation currently characterised by many dynamic entities.

When respondents were consulted concerning their views of Scottishness, an interesting and dominant theme concerning the stereotyped images was identified. Their stereotypical place was clearly recognised. Typical Scottish answers included:

I’m stumped! I suppose the things that normally come to mind are, kind of like, your kilts and tartan.... but to me that’s not something I think of personally. That’s not the sort of thing I equate with being Scottish.

To most respondents, images of Scottishness were inherent to their personal lives and experiences within the country, and often did not initially state the stereotyped images at all. This Scottish respondent stated

[Scottishness] is more to do with my upbringing and growing up in Scotland and the kind of influences of the actual physical area and my social background.

In this respect, such stereotypical images were seen as a distinct separate entity from contemporary Scotland. These findings uphold the dominant theories in the literature of Human, Richards, Barker and the corporate identity theorists. Respondents are seeing the stereotyped images as divorced from real life and their every day life as consumers, as such images are not the product of any interaction experienced between respondents and contemporary life in Scotland. Such images do not relate to the everyday experiences of individuals. Non Scots tended to share these same views, stressing the importance of life within Scotland as shaping their views of Scottish identity. Two English respondents, both having lived in Scotland for a while, stated:

Scots are seen as drunk and pennypinching in England, but I’ve not found that while living here

Well there’s things its associated with [stereotypical images] but that is, you know, having since moved up here six years ago, that’s obviously got nothing to do with it and with how I see Scottishness now.

With respondents clearly able to segregate Scottish stereotypical images from reality, the question is begged as to whether these images are seen as problematic to the current identity. To answer this question, respondents were asked how they viewed these images compared to contemporary Scottish identity.

The first purpose identified by respondents for such stereotypical images was as serving 'commercial’ Scotland. Many talked negatively of the Scottish Tourism Industry and its usage of stereotyped Scottish images. Indeed, the concept of tourism within 'commercial Scotland’ was seen as separate entity irrelevant to current Scottish identity B by Scots and non-Scots - with no potential to impact on it:

I think they [the images] should be used purely as marketing and tourism and things like that, and amongst ourselves we shouldn’t conform to that, you know?

This theme also concurred with the idea that these images and icons were 'visual’ and what people 'see’ as opposed to life experiences and everyday happenings. Such arguments lend further weight to the findings of Barker (1927) and Richards (1997) and Human (1999) that valid identity symbols and images are only created through people’s interaction with and recognition of their current national identity. It is clearly concluded here that respondents do not relate to Scottish stereotyped images, as they are obviously not a 'real’ occurrence within current Scottish life. However, this issue raises a problem in that the tourism industry is in fact of great relevance and value to Scotland’s economy. 'Scotland the Brand’ portrays the tourist industry as one of its key sector concerns within its objectives. These findings suggest that it is time for the Scottish tourist industry to find new icons of contemporary Scotland to incorporate into its strategy.

Images of the Scottish landscape were suggested by many as of value to Scottish contemporary identity and were often differentiated from other stereotyped Scottish images were viewed as in relation to respondents’ real lives. The statement of one Scottish respondent sums up these views:

I suppose everyone thinks of Edinburgh Castle although I don’t particularly identify with it. The landscape, hills and mountains and streams and heather and organic things like that are more in keeping with what I think of having to do with Scotland. Tartan, pipes and Edinburgh Castle are for the outsiders.

The value of historical aspects to contemporary identity was also stressed in the research findings. Another English respondent strongly upheld this view:

I don’t think about modern day things because it’s your history that makes your country what it is isn’t it? I don’t think you think particularly about the day to day things. It’s what you know about a place, and that generally means your history.

The validity of this theme to contemporary Scottish identity could be explained by the fact that such a sense of history is central to providing an idea of the roots of the contemporary identity. A symbolic interaction between people and historical myths is thus created through this relationship. Such interaction is experienced with the landscape and rural images possibly because they are so physically prominent and shape so many peoples’ professions, habitats and leisure activities. An Englsih respondent spoke of the eternal nature of historical and landscape related images:

I don’t think these images are tired. Shortbread and whisky might fade as they are more kind of to do with business than cultural...... The historical has survived on its own. They appeal to older and younger generations, especially now.

If historical and landscape images are seen as so eternally valid, they could perhaps be seen as core traits (Huntington, 1997) that are unique to Scottish identity. The literature concerning the National Identity Framework can be related to this issue (Keillor and Hult, 1998). If the four identity dimensions are referred to, the National Heritage dimension could be seen as rated particularly highly for Scotland. This framework aims to identify factors that are most identified and related to by nation members, and are hence unique traits to that nation. Hoever, this research identified historical and scenery issues as potentially detrimental to contemporary Scottish identity as they lent to the image of Scotland as an isolated island stuck in the past with no technological infrastructure.

Contemporary Scotland

When consumers were asked about the problem of 'fit’ between stereotyped Scottish images and contemporary Scottish identity there appeared to be a general consensus. People identified that although the stereotyped images discussed so far had no relation to reality within the Scottish nation, they were not as such seen to present any serious problem to current national identity. However, although not discussed often, Scottish film was seen to promote certain negative 'personality’ characteristics such as drunkenness and violence, thus upholding the media literature themes.

A point of contrast with regard to these themes is that the Scottish film industry was stated by some respondents as a vibrant and relevant element of the nation’s current identity. If such negative national characteristics are promoted then by Scottish film, the need for the more positive national characteristics to find a symbolic form, as proposed by Scotland the Brand, is heightened. However, with reference to the literature review, some concern is presented relating to the emphasis on cultural aspects over contemporary industry sectors. This point relates to Khachaturian and Morganosky’s (1990) findings that the image of a less industrialised country can lead to a decline in product quality image. If progress in Scotland is defined entirely in terms of culture, does that help the image of Scottish products.

Respondents in general seemed not see Scottish stereotyped images as a problem to contemporary Scottish identity. A theme which highlighted this point and was expressed by many respondents was the idea that any contrast present between contemporary identity and national stereotypes was the same as experienced by any other country. Thus, the situation did not make Scotland exceptional in any way. When asked what her views on Scottish stereotyped images were, an English respondent replied:

Those images are naff! But they’re the same as fish and chips on Brighton pier B they don’t mean anything.

It’s an ignorance on other peoples behalf rather, rather than of Scotland, like anywhere. Scotland will always have these images though because, because of the countryside being so dramatic will evoke that type of feeling and the history.

What can be gathered from the respondent data overall was there was no need for Scottish stereotyped images to be eradicated. With historical and landscape images in particular, a strong degree of relevance to contemporary Scottish identity was stressed in many views, both by Scots and non-Scots. What can perhaps belinked to this theme is the identification by many respondents of Scotland as a dynamic nation with multiple identities. What is suggested by this factor is that the diversity of identities allows valid space for Scotland’s stereotyped identity. The historic and landscape aspects can be seen as an inclusive part of the progressive nature of Scottish identity that respondents, as this study concluded earlier, seemed to relate to.

The contemporary Scottish identity was generally viewed to consist of developments that were the product of an inherently progressive and dynamic nature within that identity. This allows a place for Scotland’s stereotyped images. The question can now be asked as to whether respondents saw the need for new identity symbols to be created for Scottish contemporary identity. If Scottish identity is constantly progressing, then the nation’s consumers have to interact with that identity through relevant symbolic interpretations of it. The research findings were found to agree with this argument. As one Scottish respondent stated:

These [stereotypical] images have a basis within history, but you need more modern ones to show Scotland has changed.

Another Scots respondent commented:

You can learn from the past but must not hark back. I often feel as if nothing has happened since the ’45. [the second Jacobite Rebellion , 1745]

The role of Scotland’s past as continually providing the roots of a contemporary national identity is suggested in the last comment, as well as the recognition of the lack of contemporary symbols for Scotland as part of this progressive relationship. The fact that Scottish stereotyped images should overall take a low profile to these new symbolic interpretations was however the majority view, and summed up in the following comment by a Scot:

I don’t think the Piper and kilts will ever be out of place. I think they have to fall at a lower level though. I hope other things become more prominent B I’m not sure what they would be!

What was clear from this study was that in terms of 'culture consumed’ (Fuat Firat 1995) the stereotypical aspects of Scottish culture are actively and enthusiastically consumed by both Scots and non Scots alike. Scots in particular look forward to a future in which historical symbols are relevant but not dominant in defining identity.


The research reveals that consumer perceptions of contemporary Scotland reflect the multidimensionality of the nation’s identity. Primary features with which the respondents identified related to recent developments in art and culture, whereas business and industry were seen to be less central to their conception of present day Scotland. Many of the stereotypical images and established symbols used to signify Scottishness, particularly those that have a heavy presence in tourist "hot spots" as souvenirs (e.g. tartan and whiskey), are not seen by consumers to represent reality of everyday life. There are, however, some images with which consumers identify more closely, such as the portrayal of the Scottish countryside. Despite lack of identification with traditional symbols of Scotland, the consumers recognised that the use of these symbols to communicate to external groups might be appropriate, depending on the group’s motives for interacting with 'things Scottish’. This sentiment fails to acknowledge, however, the consequences of transmitting conflicting meanings about national identity and ideology (Schouten and Alexander, 1995).

Scotland’s image is a commercial and economic matter and as such national identity is an important part of the economic development of the country (Patton, 1999). O’Shea (1999) points to a 'chicken and egg’ situation where the value of the national image outside of Scotland lies to a large extent with the corporations who choose to promote themselves as Scottish. If these organisations retain the misty tartan image then Scotland will continue to be perceived as old-fashioned; if however Scottish companies are perceived to be modern, dynamic and innovative, the image of Scotland changes. Nationalism is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Church was replaced as the dominant cultural institution with the coming of the modern worldview. The Renaissance saw the ascent of nationalism. In more recent times still the corporation has become for most people the dominant institution (Deetz, 1992). Habermas (1975) shows how we have experienced a shift from social identity to individual identity due to economic changes in our (Western) society. In recent months we might be forgiven for thinking that nationalism is re-surging and that this is not necessarily beneficial.


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Emma Combes, University of Strathclyde
Sally Hibbert, University of Strathclyde
Gillian Hogg, Glasgow Caledonian University
Richard Varey, University of Salford


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28 | 2001

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