Alex Salmond bamboozled the public with panda advert
Watchdog rules Scottish Government must not claim that animals were a goodwill gift from China
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Wednesday 11 April 2012
Alex Salmond's Scottish Government has been rapped by the advertising watchdog for claiming the Edinburgh Zoo pandas as a "gift" that demonstrates the close relationship between Scotland and China.
The arrival of the bears was in fact part of a "commercial arrangement" between the zoo and the Communist authorities, according to a ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority, which banned future claims that the animals were provided without payment.
In press adverts, Mr Salmond's SNP administration boasted that China's "gifting" of Tian Tian and Yan Guang showed that Scotland had developed an especially close relationship with the world's fastest-growing country.
However after investigating the funding of the pandas, the ASA ruled that ordinary people would deem them to have been acquired as a result of a commercial agreement. In exchange for the pandas – the first to arrive in the UK for 17 years – Edinburgh Zoo's owner, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, is paying China £640,000 annually for 10 years to fund panda conservation.
The ASA banned Mr Salmond's government from repeating the claim.
Edinburgh Zoo, which was experiencing falling visitor numbers, is hoping the pandas will revive its financial fortunes. But they have not come cheap: their enclosures have also cost £250,000 and the animals' food, including imported bamboo, costs £70,000 a year.
In December, Mr Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, travelled to China for a trade mission timed to coincide with the pandas' arrival in Edinburgh onboard a FedEx Panda Express jet. To mark the public relations coup, the Scottish Government placed newspaper adverts featuring a picture of Tian Tian. The ad said: "Now, in a symbolic gesture of friendship between the countries, and following five years of political and diplomatic talks, the Chinese are gifting two giant pandas to live in Scotland, under the custodianship of Edinburgh Zoo."
The charities Animal Concern and Scotland for Animals claimed that was misleading because they understood the bears had been leased to the zoo by China at substantial cost.
The Scottish Government said it had not paid any money to China and quoted the Chinese ambassador, His Excellency Mr Liu Xiaoming, as saying: "This historical agreement is a gift to the people of the UK from China."
The ASA said: "We considered that consumers would interpret the terms 'gift' and 'gifting' to mean that the pandas were given without payment."
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Scottish independence referendum live: Latest news as Scotland votes Yes or No
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Scottish independence: What you shouldn't tweet about if you want to avoid jail today
Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: What you shouldn't tweet about if you want to avoid jail today
- 3 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 4 Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
- 5 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...
£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...
£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...