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 essay 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 term 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 audiences’ perceptions of what is valuable.
To demonstrate this, we present examples of the Scotland is Now campaign, which emphasises 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 EU (Brexit) and its potential soft disempowerment (Brannagan and Giulianotti, 2018), as well as emphasising 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 2nd Edition
EditorsNaren Chitty, Lilian Ji, Gary Rawnsley
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Oct 2022


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


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