Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all were Upheld.
A regional press ad, for Communities Against Turbines Scotland, was headed "Welcome to Scotland!" above a photograph of broken and rusty wind turbines. Text underneath stated "Alex Salmond wants to build 8,750 of these monstrosities - just think about it! Join us in Edinburgh for a march and a rally on ...". Small print at the bottom of the ad stated "Photo not taken in Scotland".
Scottish Renewables and two readers challenged whether:
1. the photograph gave a misleading impression of the proposed wind farms, because the picture was of a decommissioned wind farm in Hawaii and Scottish regulations prevented turbines from being allowed to deteriorate to the condition shown.
Scottish Renewables also challenged whether:
2. the picture and the claim "Alex Salmond wants to build 8,750 of these monstrosities" were misleading, because the model of turbine featured had not been used in Scotland; and
3. the claim "Alex Salmond wants to build 8,750 of these monstrosities" was misleading, because they understood that the proposed number was significantly less.
The Trump Organization (Trump) and Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS) provided a joint response to the complaints.
1. Trump understood that the Scottish Government policy was to encourage the growth of renewable energy development, including onshore wind turbines, with the aim of meeting 100% of Scottish Energy needs by renewable energy by 2020, a plan which Trump and CATS said they were vigorously opposed. Trump argued that much of the effort in meeting the Government's aims would go into the construction of additional onshore wind turbines, which they believed was likely to be in the thousands. They maintained that experience overseas had shown that as the turbines aged, they broke down, deteriorated and rotted. They said the photograph of disused turbines was illustrative of what the target for onshore wind might look like if it did not thrive; the picture had been used with a strong sense of satire for dramatic effect. They said there was no mention of wind farms in the ad, nor what might or might not be allowed by wind farm regulations in Scotland, considerations which they believed were irrelevant to the use of the picture.
2. Trump said the turbine model shown in the photograph had not been used in Scotland; the purpose was to illustrate what could happen if the Scottish Government policy was taken forward, which they believed was clear from the text. They pointed out that small print made clear that the photo was not taken in Scotland. They argued that using a photograph of a brand new wind farm was not appropriate to show the results of the policy failing.
3. Trump said Alex Salmond, as First Minister, was mentioned in the ad as the representative for the Scottish Government and its policy for the future. Trump believed that 8,750 three MW onshore turbines was a broad approximation of what might be required to reach the proposed target. They said they had based the figure on calculations made in a University of Strathclyde document that estimated how many wind turbines would be needed to replace nuclear power energy plants in Scotland, and on the Scottish Government policy document '2020 Routemap'. Trump said there were no accurate government estimates of future numbers, because consent for turbine installation was the subject of individual applications. They said it was impossible to keep an accurate count.
The ASA recognised that the photograph had been used to make a satirical point and considered that most readers would understand that the picture was chosen to represent what might happen once wind turbines were no longer in use. However, although it was likely that some wind turbines would at some point in the future be decommissioned and others might stop working for a variety of reasons, we understood that Scottish regulations were in place to prevent the turbines from deteriorating to the condition shown in the photograph. While the picture was intended to make a satirical point and small print stated "Photo not taken in Scotland", we considered that readers would nonetheless understand that it was a representation, albeit extreme, of what could happen in Scotland. We therefore considered that, because that scenario was unlikely, the picture had given a misleading impression of the possible consequences of the Scottish Government's plans to use wind turbines.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising).
We considered the claim that the Scottish Government wanted to build 8,750 of "these monstrosities" was a direct reference to the model of turbine shown in the photograph and not a reference to wind turbines generally. We understood that the picture was of a wind farm built in 1987 and decommissioned in 2006 and therefore the model of turbine was unlikely to still be used in new wind farm projects. Although the small print stated that the photo had not been taken in Scotland, we considered that it was not sufficient to remove the overall impression that the turbines shown were the type that had been used, or would be used, in Scotland. We therefore considered that the picture gave a misleading impression of the type of turbine likely to be used in Scotland.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. Misleading advertising).
We noted the figure of 8,750 turbines used in the ad was taken from a University of Strathclyde document and the Scottish Government's policy document '2020 Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland'. We understood from the Scottish Government's policy document that their aim was to provide 100% electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and 11% of renewable heat. The document included figures for current and planned turbines, as well as figures for potential on shore site turbines, which gave an overall estimated total of 5,645, which was significantly less than the claimed figure in the ad. Trump had also argued that it was impossible to keep an accurate count on the number of turbine applications, but we noted the ad used a precise figure, which they had not been able to substantiate.
We considered that the claim "Alex Salmond wants to build 8,750 of these monstrosities" had implied that the number of turbines was based on an official Scottish Government figure, which was not the case, and had therefore exaggerated the government estimate. We concluded that the claim was misleading.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Trump and CATS to ensure that the pictures they used in future ads reflected the types of turbines likely to be used in Scotland, and not to exaggerate the number of turbines likely to be installed or the possible consequences of the Scottish Government's plans to use wind turbines.