Would Scottish independence mean the end of the Union Jack and a rebranding for the UK?

In what seemed as an impossibility at the beginning of the summer, the Scottish Separatist “ayes” have gained enormous momentum in the weeks leading up to the September 18 referendum. The consequences of a separation are almost too broad in spectrum and significant in impact to fathom. The loss of the Union Jack is one of them. 

For our immediate interests as a Members club that promotes craft distillers and top-quality spirits, Scotland would retain £3 billion, the annual economic contribution of the world renowned Scotch whisky industry, as well as the 70% share of the UK gin market that it produces. 


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As a spirits promoter, we are also concerned with brand. Almost nothing has been more symbolic of the UK brand over the past two centuries than the Union Jack, a hallmark that includes elements of the Scottish flag. 

An early version of the combination of English and Scottish flag characteristics dates back to the early 1600s when, in 1606, a flag was created joining the red cross and white background of the flag of England with the white saltire on a blue background of the Scottish flag. Almost 200 years later in 1801, the red saltire of St. Patrick’s Cross representing Ireland were added to form the Union Jack that we know today.

If the Union Jack’s current form were to perish with a possible Scottish exit, the United Kingdom  would have to undergo a rebranding campaign, a marketing feat far from easily accomplished. The repercussions extend to former British colonies such as Australia, Fiji and Bermuda all which continue to incorporate the Union Jack in their country emblems. 

New versions of the Union Jack, for instance, those that incorporate elements of Welsh and Northern Irish identities, have been proposed. But the UK without the Union Jack would be like Tanqueray without its iconic green bottle, McDonald’s without the Golden arches and Apple without its, well, apple. 

Union Jack with Welsh elements flag

Scotland would maintain its national flag. But its flag is not nearly as widely recognized and the Scottish disassociation with the Union Jack would also have significant consequences for its own branding and international appeal. 

There are a host of economic, political and cultural reasons why Scottish independence doesn’t seem to make sense. But branding should not be ignored. The consequences of losing one of the world’s most recognized symbols would be detrimental to all parties it currently represents.