National reader Allan Wright, a piano tuner from Battlefield, Glasgow, said the Tories’ “Made in the UK, Sold to the World” marketing campaign was a waste of taxpayers’ money which was trying hide the impact of leaving the European Union.
Wright (below) noticed one of the advertisements at Mount Florida train station and was moved to call it out, saying he felt the UK Government were trying to promote their Brexit agenda with public cash.
The 50-year-old said: “I was just going about my business in the morning going to get my ticket to get the train into work and I walked past the billboard and I saw the UK Government logo and the Union Jack on the other side and I thought, ‘Ugh, what’s this?’”
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He added: “It has one message about business on it but I was feeling that wasn’t the whole picture, I had a feeling there was some political side to it as well.
“And my main concern was that taxpayers’ money was being used on an advertising campaign to promote the Union.”
The advert campaign is just one part of the UK trade department’s multi-million pound advertising budget.
Wright said the UK Government had the right to advertise if it had brought in a new benefit or other services it should make people aware of – but felt this advert was intended to make a political point about the country’s economy post-Brexit.
The Department for International Trade considers the advertising campaign – launched by then-prime minster Boris Johnson in November 2021 – one of its “achievements”, according to the department’s annual report from 2022.
A precise figure for the “Made in the UK, Sold to the World” campaign’s budget is not available but the report said the department’s told “communications and marketing” spend was £23.7m.
“We’re being shown this advert, when none of us wanted [Brexit] up here, so it seems to me completely futile,” Wright added.
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“It’s trying to gloss over that fact and really project forward and trying to just deflect from the ongoing mayhem and disruption that the whole Brexit thing has caused us.”
Research by the Centre for European Reform think tank in 2019 suggested that Brexit had shrunk Britain’s economy by 2.9% and said exports had fallen by 3.4%.
The SNP and Scottish Greens called the campaign “propaganda” for the UK Government.
Philippa Whitford, the SNP’s Scotland spokesperson, said: “There isn’t enough spin in the world that can wriggle the UK government out of their Brexit mess.
“Brexit has, and will continue to be, an unmitigated disaster for Scottish businesses and households.
“They can plaster as many false propaganda messages as they like around Glasgow and the rest of Scotland – people will not be fooled by it.
“The only way for Scotland to regain the benefits of the European Union and the Single Market - which is seven times larger than that of the UK – is by gaining control of our own future through independence.”
A Scottish Greens spokesperson added: “Brexit has been an economic disaster for the UK. It has hiked up prices, hammered small businesses and led to an even more inward-looking, racist and jingoistic Tory government. No amount of propaganda can cover that up.”
Chris McEleny, the general secretary of the Alba Party, said: “It seems the UK Government have dropped the ball here.
“With one hand they tell the people of Scotland that they are too wee and too poor to be independent but with the other hand they’ve launched a billboard campaign which helpfully highlights to people across Scotland the global export potential we have.
“And that’s a potential that will be massively improved with independence and Scotland being able to rejoin the single market place which will greatly assist our fisheries and whisky industries.”
The UK Government defended the adverts and claimed they helped Scottish businesses trade with the rest of the world by making companies aware of the benefits of new trade deals the country has struck with places like Australia since leaving the EU.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business and Trade said: “The Made in the UK campaign puts thousands of Scottish businesses in front of new global buyers so they can take advantage of the markets we’re opening up with exciting new trade deals.
“We’re proud to promote Scottish businesses selling over £35 billion of goods and services around the world including Scottish whisky to India, smoked salmon to the US and financial services to Japan.”