THIS was not just a mistake, this was an M&S mistake.

The retail giant was taken to task by The National after reader Dr Stewart Brown contacted us to point out a howler on the firm’s website.

On the whisky and gin pages in the food section of the website, Marks & Spencer listed the countries of origin as USA, Ireland, India, England and ‘Great Britain.’

Dr Brown dashed off an electronic missive to Marks & Spencer: “You list ‘England’ as a separate first order category but not ‘Scotland’, despite the fact that Scottish whisky (Scotch) is renowned worldwide.

“If Scotland only merits a listing under ‘Great Britain’, why does England not similarly fall within this ‘Great Britain’ category? Who on earth refers to whisky from Great Britain, or to British whisky when in fact the origin is Scotland and the spirit Scotch? Moreover, in terms of listing countries of origin, in any context England has exactly the same status as Scotland.”

That was in September. Back came a reply from the company’s customer services team: “I’m very sorry you’re unhappy that we have put Scotch Whisky under our Great Britain category on the website rather than under Scotland. I understand this must be frustrating when England has it’s (sic) own category. I’ve made sure to report your comments for the attention of our web team so they can look into getting this adjusted in the near future.”

By October nothing on the website had changed, and it appeared that ‘British’ operatives in the company’s web team were not for moving.

Dr Brown was told in an e-mail by a customer services operative: “They may decide to keep the listings as they are, I’m sorry this wasn’t made clear.

“I’ve had a look at our reporting system and can see we haven’t received any other contacts of this nature apart from yourself. At the moment, it looks like our customers are happy with how the Whisky is currently catagorised (sic).”

It got worse: Dr Brown noted to the company that two gins made in Scotland were also being categorised as being from ‘Great Britain’ while ‘England’ had nine gins. He then also listed other retailers whose websites correctly describe Scottish produce.

He asked by e-mail: “In what other product areas does M&S downgrade in its listings products made in Scotland (or Wales or Northern Ireland) relative to those made in England? So what is M&S’s justification for what otherwise is illogicality…a corporate strategy/agenda of some kind; a staff member’s misunderstanding of the structure of the UK; a staff member’s lack of awareness of the important branding issues for whisky and gin; or a staff member’s personal intransigence or agenda? Do I really have to encourage others to flood you with complaints before such a simple, logical change is made?”

Dr Brown did better than that — he contacted The National, the only daily Scottish newspaper that always puts Scotland’s interests first. Indeed, we highlighted the importance of ‘Scotland the Brand’ for Scottish produce on Monday.

After The National contacted Marks & Spencer, a spokesman said: “We apologise for the mistake on our website. Thank you for bringing this to our attention; this is currently being updated,” he said.

This was not just a climbdown, this was an M&S climbdown.