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Thanks Dove! Now I will finally stop comparing myself to the perfect form of a soap bottle

This has never been a source of anything even resembling discomfort for anyone, ever.

In my bathroom, there’s a bottle of Radox shower gel. It’s hard to describe the shape but I’m going to settle for “pointy, asymmetric oval, like a croissant made of wax, which has been left out in the sun and melted a bit”. The point is: I will never look like this. No amount of dieting, cosmetic surgery or CrossFit make me look like a melted croissant. Tragically, I was born human-shaped and my lack of body shape representation in toiletry vessels is a constant source of trauma. Except no, it isn’t. Because this has never been a source of anything even resembling discomfort for anyone, ever.

Even so, in this year’s latest display of corporate wokeness, Dove soap has come up with a genius solution to this non-existent problem. The Pepsi ad solved racism. The new Heineken ad has solved misogyny and transphobia. And the latest body positive campaign from Dove seeks to celebrate the fact that women come in different shapes and sizes. Tube shape. Rococo armoire shape. Whatever arbitrary thing you look like naked, you are probably represented by one of the skincare brand’s limited edition differently-shaped body wash bottles.

This latest well-meaning but ever so slightly patronising move by Dove, known for plastering tube station walls with pictures of racially and... bodily (?) diverse women in white underwear, hasn’t inspired quite as much internet vitriol as the now recalled cataclysmically disastrous Pepsi ad. But a lot of people have pointed out that a) the “diverse” bottles are all still white and b) this whole thing is silly, please – for the love of God - can brands stop trying to hijack important political movements with inane ad campaigns. It’s almost as if fictional PR non-genius Siobhan Sharpe has come to life and taken over the whole of advertising.

But, far more pressingly, is the idea from Dove – clearly concocted in a “creative space” where people sit on live alpacas instead of chairs – that you pick the bottle that corresponds to your body type? Because I can’t see mine, and I’m starting to fear a continuation of the bad old days of the melted croissant Radox bottle and impossible beauty standards. Also, where can I find a toiletry container that speaks to my experience of being gay, Jewish and dyspraxic? If corporations are going to tout their PC-ness, they may as well go the whole woke hog.

What’s more, if Dove are going to do feminism, it’s probably a good idea not to literally objectify women by turning us into bottles of soap. But maybe I’m scraping the barrel for something to be offended by.

Really though, it’s hard to get genuinely angry about the Dove campaign. It neither hurts anyone, nor solves anything. It just sits there like a sofa in a field. Doing nothing. It’s quite peaceful, in a way. If ads are going political, and there’s nothing we can do about that, isn’t it much better that they’re tepid and ineffectual like the Dove one than genuinely very gross, à la Pepsi? Meanwhile, I’m almost looking forward to another brand taking on a Big Issue and missing the mark with balletic precision. Maybe Greggs will try and wipe out anti-Semitism with a Star of David-shaped sausage roll.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.