On the Soft Power of Values: The ‘Scotland is Now’ campaign

Alastair Mackie, Katerina Strani

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This study discusses the relation between soft power and values. A brief overview of theories on soft power shows that values, as well as themes such as morality or civic virtue, have been connected to the concept before but require further elaboration. We argue that soft power has a two-dimensional connection to value(s): soft power is of value to those who create it, but values can also serve as a source of soft power. We follow Graeber’s (2001) anthropological theory of value and suggest that both interpretations are actually variations of the same: ‘the way in which actions become meaningful to the actor by being incorporated in some larger, social totality’ (ibid. xii). Applied to soft power, this means actions are given meaning (power) by the audiences’ perceptions of what is valuable.

To demonstrate this, we present examples of the ‘Scotland is Now’ campaign, which emphasizes Scotland’s progressive values. We argue that the campaign showcases an ideal of the future, and that by presenting actions which represent these progressive values it advertises the ability to experience the future in the present. We compare the ‘Scotland is Now’ campaign to its British counterpart: the ‘GREAT Britain’ campaign. We argue that the apparently reactive design of the Scottish campaign disassociates Scotland from Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) and its potential soft disempowerment (Brannagan & Giulianotti 2018) and emphasizes Scotland’s progressive values. Further, it serves as pre-emptive soft diplomacy by displaying Scotland’s ‘openness’ to Europe and to the rest of the world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Soft Power
EditorsNaren Chitty, Lilian Ji, Gary Rawnsley
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781003189756
ISBN (Print)9781032039268
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2023


  • soft power
  • values
  • progressive values
  • nation branding
  • campaign
  • Scotland
  • Brexit
  • diplomacy


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