"Ecosse" stickers on Scottish cars?

Here’s something that’s been puzzling me for a while. I quite often see cars, presumably owned by Scottish people, with stickers reading “ECOSSE”, sometimes with the blue cross of St Andrew as well.

I’m well aware that Ecosse is the French name for Scotland, but why do Scottish people use the French name in preference to the English name, or even the Gaelic name Alba?

Can any Scottish people enlighten me?

There are some stickers that say “Alba”, but I have seen the “Ecosse” ones, and I too have wondered why they are in French!

I suspect it is due to the fact that these stickers are for use abroad. If someone is taking their car abroad then it is most likely to be continental Europe, and therefore a European language would be preferable. French is usually the first second language taught in schools here, so…

And we sure ain’t going to use English!! :wink:

Just a WAG, but it makes sense to me!

Perhaps because Scottish drivers only need to identify their vehicle’s nationality when driving on mainland Europe… There’s no need to have it in English cos it’s not required when driving from Scotland to England.

As such “Ecosse” makes sense because the French, Belgians and Swiss will be able to understand it straight off, and it’s also not too far removed from the Spanish “Escocia”.

The Italian, Portugese and German translations are all pretty similar to the original (la Scozia, Scotland and Schottland respectively) but it’s perhaps assumed that most driving will be done in France and Spain (Germany’s not such a popular self-drive holiday destination in the UK) and that therefore having it in French will communicate with the most people…?

However, I was always under the impression that from a legal point of view British cars - ie. English, Welsh and Scottish - all had to have a “GB” sticker (rather than “Eng” “Wls” or “Sct”)… but that might have changed with the relaxation of European border controls.

That’s my WAG!

Decades ago I was really turned on to sports car racing. The international governing body for auto racing is the FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DE L’AUTOMOBILE (FIA). They used French in many of their designations. I speculate that the usage you have seen comes from that. Are the cars in question sports/performance-oriented cars?

I’m just guessing. I’ll keep checking in till I learn the real answer.

I second Bindlestiff, sort of. I imagine that racing fans, amateur drivers, and rally drivers from Scotland will proudly declare their support of racing AND their nationality using these stickers. They are not official stickers, though, and people who just want something more exotic will use them too.

The stickers aren’t anything like the ones used for driving on the Continent, and the Scots use “GB” like the rest of the UK.

I don’t think the explanations about it being understood in continental Europe are right, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the stickers aren’t normally the “international oval” type stickers, and often the cars also have a standard GB sticker on them. They tend to be bigger, and more of a decorative “proud to be Scottish” type of thing. (Here’s a site that sells the more basic ovals.)

Secondly, and perhaps more convincingly, why only Scotland? If the international-understanding thing was the reason, then we should see stickers saying “Angleterre”, “Pays de Galles” etc, and I’ve never seen one of those.

Another piece of evidence - the Sunday Times (big UK newspaper) publishes a special section in Scotland. It’s called (you guessed it) “Ecosse”.

No, just ordinary family cars for the most part.

And then, there’s this!

I never heard about it being banned! My WAG though, is that if you’re taking your car abroad, the most likely countries to arrive on are France or Belgium. Hence the Ecosse.

From the BBC site above:

Well, duh. Those three countries are independent nations, whereas Scotland is part of the United Kingdom. Anyway, that is beside the point. :wink: (Not trying to offend anyone or belittle Scotland, just stating a fact.)

But this doesn’t answer the Ecosse question. I’ve established that it is limited to Scotland (which would seem to rule out the “taking cars abroad” reason) but is not limited to car stickers (eg the newspaper example, and I’ve also seen the stickers in people’s windows, etc, not just on cars).

And look at this web-design firm - again no obvious reason for using French, but this is just one of many Scottish sites that use Ecosse in their name.

What is behind this Franco-Scottish conspiracy?

One other point - as that news article pointed out, the “SCO” or “ECOSSE” symbols have only been banned from appearing on the number plates themselves. You can still put whatever you like elsewhere on the car:

Mary Stuart?

  • Christian

I still say the euros are mad. Why not allow Scottish drivers to deviate from arbitrary standardisation?

The Welsh also use Cymru - Welsh for Wales. The English occasionally use the flag of St George as a bumper sticker but rarely instead of the GB sticker. The reason why the Jocks & Taffs use it is that they don’t wish to be associated with England. Why that should be so is, naturally, a long story for a Great Debate.

Hmm, you could be onto something there…

My hypothesis is, it has something to do with The Auld Alliance.

Essentially, Scottland and France have traditionally had a common “enemy” - England!

On the contrary, I suspect that the whole point is that they are for use at home. Their only purpose is as a statement about the Scottishness of the owners. This sometimes takes the form of full-blooded ‘Braveheart’/‘Remember 1314’ nationalism, but it can equally be the gentler ‘We’re Scottish, not British’ type of patriotism as well. The GB sticker creates problems because it is one of the rare occasions on which anyone is required to identify themselves (by implication) as ‘British’. The distinction is one which will almost certainly be lost on most foreigners but which will be understood by fellow Scots and possibly even by some of the English. My impression is that it is a very middle-class thing, partly because the middle classes are more likely to have taken their car on holiday abroad.

As to why it is in French, my theory would be that it strikes just the right note of pretentiousness.

I just conducted a straw poll in my office, and nobody (even a couple of Scottish people) had a clue.

One (half-joking) suggestion was “So that if they go to France, the locals don’t smash up their cars thinking they’re English”!

But, I think the “Auld Alliance” explanation seems to be the answer (unless anyone knows different?)

Probably the fact that France is the most likely country someone from UK is going to take their car to. That’s the most obvious reason to me.

Somehow, I have an image of canned haggis-aroni…

I realise this is 16 years old but every year when I search Google to find a decent Ecosse sticker to buy, I come across this thread.

A few people touch on some of the reasons for people using these stickers and the reason for it being in French is as stated, due to motoracing where all designations were originally French, due to French being the traditional language of diplomacy and the FIA being originally a French organisation that is still headquartered in France.

This car stickers themselves have their origin in motorsport and would have originally stood for the French version of the country name. GB for example would be Grande Bretagne.

As for why people use them I’d say that’s mostly been covered. A significant number (if not the majority) of Scottish people identify more prominently as Scottish than British and Britishness is really synonymous with Englishness, even more so abroad. You also tend to find that French people (and Europeans in general) are enthusiastically friendly towards you when they notice these stickers. I don’t think that has anything to do with the Auld Alliance. I suspect it’s partly down to how English people are perceived abroad, particularly in France. But as with the Irish, people seem to hold an innately positive perception of us. I’ve had love hearts added to my Ecosse stickers in the past as well as invitations for drinks among other things.

Anyway. I don’t know if I’m allowed to bump threads from nearly two decades ago or if any of the previous posters still use the straight dope, but I had to respond haha.

Also Great Britain, and note that Germany is D and Holland is NL. Unless you’ve got a cite, saying that it’s GB because of French sounds like backsplaining.
And: welcome to the Dope, you may get jokes about zombie threads but that’s ok if the mods didn’t want people to be able to add to it they can close it, and a lot of the previous posters are indeed still around. Drinks and food are in Cafe Society (it’s the closest I can come to inviting you into the kitchen).