SCOTLAND needs to ditch its “nostalgic” brand rooted in the 19th century as part of efforts to strengthen relations with other parts of the world, according to a leading academic.

Professor Murray Pittock argued the country’s image overseas is still one of “castles, mountains, heather and whisky” and called for it to modernise, focusing more on the “cutting-edge” scientific work that is taking place.

He told a committee of MSPs that “overall brand” is “very important” and that it included the country’s reputation on climate change, the digital and cultural environment as well as progressive and humanitarian legislation.

“Though Scotland has a strong brand abroad its brand is actually very nostalgic, it’s principally a couple of hundred years old in terms of its perception,” he said adding that what had “poor recognition” overseas was the country’s “cutting-edge positions” in terms of science.

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He continued: “I think promoting cutting-edge research is a key element in what should be the brand as that is about building a very different vision of Scotland from – praiseworthy as it is – the castles, mountains, heather and whisky. So brand is really

important as a complete entity.”

Pittock, who is co-chair of Scottish Arts and Humanities Alliance (SAHA) at the University of Glasgow, was giving evidence to members of Holyrood’s Europe Committee which is holding an inquiry into the Scottish Government’s international


His comments were in response to Labour’s Sarah Boyack who had asked him about how Scotland’s culture and education could relate to Scottish Government’s priorities in its overseas strategy.

Dr Kirsty Hughes, a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE), also gave evidence. She said post-Brexit Scotland had to work harder to gain influence as it no longer had MEPs in Brussels.

“We’re outside the room looking in and that means we have to work harder to maintain contacts to get some but not as much information as we had before and to try to be influential when its in our interests,” she said.

“In terms of the impact of Brexit I think that makes the case for more focus on Europe ... The EU and the EEA [the European Economic Area] remain Scotland’s biggest trade partner.

“If you take the EFTA countries just over 50% of Scotland’s trade is with the EU and EFTA countries.”