It is, according to the now substantial mountain of PR material, ostensibly an event to celebrate Scottishness. But reactions to Homecoming Scotland have proved, at best, mixed, with criticisms of politicisation, tokenisation and profligacy taking a little of the shine off the tartan-packaged festival.
The Labour Party, for one, have continuously expressed concerns that the SNP are using the project to promote nationalism in advance of the 2010 referendum on independence, rather than to boost tourism. Former first minister, and the brains behind the concept, Jack McConnell said: “It was never meant to be an internal publicity campaign for Scottishness, instead of being a great investment for our future. This advertising campaign is a waste of money. The first minister has been hijacking the campaign for his own personal crusade. Scotland should be outraged. I am.”
The publicity for Homecoming Scotland 2009 first attracted notoriety as far back as December after a promotional poster of an exclusively white crowd marching cheerily behind a bagpiper was doctored to include a sole Asian male – despite the original having received no complaints. The spot-the-difference posters resulted in accusations of “tokenism” by racial equality groups.
In addition, last month’s £200,000 television advert, comprised of notable Scots singing lines from the Dougie Maclean song ‘Caledonia,’ also came under fire after it was revealed that many of the contributions were filmed outside Scotland. Moreover, the slogan—“the whole world’s invited”—appeared somewhat ironic once it was revealed the advert would only be broadcast in the UK and Ireland. VisitScotland defended their advert, calling it a “viral campaign” designed to inspire Scottish people to “extend the invitation.” However after ministers donated an extra £500,000 towards marketing—a 40 per cent increase from the original £1.25 million budget—the advert will now be broadcast on PBS, BBC America and the Discovery Channels in North America, as well as running for an extra week in the UK. The injection of extra funds into the project has been cited as evidence that preparations for the celebrations have been inadequate.
But to claim that reactions to Homecoming Scotland have been wholly negative is to grossly underplay broad support for the event as a fun and ultimately entertaining celebration of the celtic nation. Advocates remain hopeful that the initiative will fulfil its intent to promote Scotland as a holiday destination.
Tourism minister Jim Mather said: “There is no doubt that the global downturn is affecting Scotland, but tourists, from both home and overseas, can help breathe fresh life into Scotland’s economy in 2009.” Tourism is Scotland’s largest industry, responsible for at least nine per cent of employment and generating around £4 billion revenue each year. The Homecoming project aims to produce an extra £40 million along with 100,000 more tourists.
Alex Salmond said: “[Homecoming] is about reuniting Scots and friends of Scotland with the aspects of commonality that bind them together, allowing them to share the pleasure and pride of our culture and heritage.”
The Homecoming celebrations will begin on January 25th to coincide with Burns Night and continue until St Andrew’s Day on November 25th.